The purposes of this study were to examine the role of higher education in the career paths of board-certified specialists in geriatric physical therapy (GCSs) and to explore implications for professional and postprofessional education.
Data included in-depth interviews in 1996 with the 1992 GCSs, open-ended questionnaire responses in 1999 from the 1995 GCSs, and American Physical Therapy Association survey data and document collection from both groups. Using a qualitative research method, common themes were sought among individuals.
Results and Conclusions.
Few participants had didactic exposure to geriatrics or gerontology in their professional education. None of 1992 GCSs and only two of the 1995 GCSs intended to work with older people following their professional education. Only later did the participants find themselves working primarily with older people and realized it was a “good fit.” The GCSs then sought specialization and both informal and formal postprofessional educational opportunities. The 12 GCS who participated in the initial in-depth interviews shared their insights on higher education as it related to professional and postprofessional education based on perceptions of their own lives and our health care system as it pertained to older people. All the participants believed in the value of lifelong learning for themselves and others. Their recommendations for professional and postprofessional education arose out of this core belief.