Background and Purpose.
As part of the accreditation process, physical therapist education
programs are required to identify expected outcomes for their graduates. According to accreditation guidelines, expected graduate outcomes are meant to reflect the mission of the program and be consistent with the institutional mission. Therefore, expected outcomes vary across programs, and there are no uniform and consistent guidelines for determining expected outcomes.
The directors of the 187 US physical therapist (PT) education programs, who were members of the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT) of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), were contacted in March 2011 to request that they send their list of graduate outcomes. A qualitative conventional content analysis was undertaken to identify core concepts in the statements of expected graduate outcomes.
Seventy-five programs responded by sending their documents. Ten common themes emerged from the documents: (1) service and social responsibility, (2) professionalism, (3) professional role, (4) professional commitment, (5) practice management, (6) communication, (7) professional growth and development, (8) evidence-based practice, (9) clinical reasoning, and (10) patient management. The themes suggested that graduates were expected to demonstrate competencies within several related domains, including the individual practitioner; individual practices; the physical therapy profession; health care professions; and society, with communication reflected and integrated through each domain.
Discussion and Conclusion.
Our analysis suggested 10 fundamental expected graduate outcomes representing expectations that graduates demonstrate excellent communication skills and competence as individual providers of patient care, as participants in the broader practice and profession of physical therapy, and as health care professionals who have obligations for improving the health of society. The themes reflected APTA core documents and were common to other health professions. The commonalities among program documents seemed to demonstrate an unspoken consensus about the outcomes expected of graduates of PT education programs.