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Exploring the Influence of Clinical and Classroom Training on Advocacy for Safe Patient Handling Practices Among Student Physical Therapists

Stevenson, John PT, PhD; Hinsch, Christian PhD; Bartold, Kristen PT, DPT; Briggs, Lucas PT, DPT; Tyler, Lindsay PT, DPT

Journal of Physical Therapy Education: Volume 29 - Issue 1 - p 60–69

Background and Purpose. Practices for patient lifting and transfers in the physical therapy profession have begun to shift from traditional manual methods with a focus on body mechanics to more equipment-assisted patient lifting and transfer techniques. These processes are collectively known as safe patient handling (SPH), which has been shown to better protect against injuries for both the patient and the therapist. The purpose of this study was to examine physical therapist students’ attitudes and intentions toward advocacy for SPH in practice through their education.

Subjects. Student physical therapists (PTs) enrolled in programs in the United States (US) accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) who had been educated in patient transfer skills.

Methods. A pilot form of the survey was used to gain feedback from second-year physical therapy students to establish face and content validity. Physical therapy program directors were sent an email link for their students to access a 50-item electronic survey that consisted of 4 sections of 7-point Likert scale questions pertaining to attitudes and intentions regarding patient handling and transfer education, their education and training in their physical therapist education program, and techniques used during their clinical education. A section of forced-choice questions regarding the type of patient handling education they received and demographic questions were also included. Five hypotheses developed from the theory of reasoned action (TRA) were tested using bootstrap mediation analysis.

Results. Participants (n = 291) represented 23% of CAPTE accredited programs, as well as 54% of states in the US and Puerto Rico. All hypotheses were supported, indicating: (1) SPH didactic training impacts SPH behaviors through the subject's attitude toward SPH, (2) SPH classroom training impacts SPH leadership expectations through the subject's attitude toward SPH, (3) the link between clinical training and SPH was mediated by the subject's attitude toward SPH, and (4) clinical training impacts a subject's SPH leadership expectations through his or her attitudes toward SPH.

Discussion and Conclusion. Results reinforce previous findings that the TRA model is applicable in health professions research. Student PTs receiving didactic SPH education and training were more likely to express attitudes toward assuming a leadership role in advocacy for SPH in clinical practice.

John Stevensonis the associate dean of graduate studies and a professor of physical therapy at Grand Valley State University, 401 Fulton Street West, Grand Rapids, MI 49504 ( Please address all correspondence to John Stevenson.

Chris Hinschis assistant professor of marketing at the Seidman College of Business, Grand Valley State University.

Kristen Bartoldis a staff therapist at JZ Mann Pediatric Therapy, Jacksonville, NC.

Lucas Briggsis a staff therapist at Comp Health, Grand Rapids, MI.

Lindsay Tyleris a staff therapist at Borgess Spine, Kalamazoo, MI.

Drs Bartold, Briggs, and Tyler were graduate students who worked on this project as part of their degree requirements for their DPT from Grand Valley State University at the time of this study.

The Human Research Review Committee of Grand Valley State University (GVSU) approved the survey tool and the study protocol.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Received June 10, 2013, and accepted November 19, 2013.

Copyright2015 (C) Academy of Physical Therapy Education, APTA
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