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Postprofessional Physical Therapist Education

A Report From Two Regions of the World

Westervelt, Karen C., PT, ATC, PhD, FAAOMPT, OCS; Chenette, Jennifer, DPT; Merkel, Liana, DPT; Sibold, Jeremy, ATC, EdD; Crane, Linda, PhD; Hing, Wayne, PhD, MSc(Hons), ADP(OMT), DipMT, Dip Phys, FNZCP

Journal of Physical Therapy Education: September 2018 - Volume 32 - Issue 3 - p 264–272
doi: 10.1097/JTE.0000000000000036
Research Report

Introduction. Leaders in the physical therapy profession have identified a global need for high-quality postprofessional physical therapist (PT) education. However, the educational needs and realities for busy practicing PTs have yet to be identified. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to provide information to assist institutions around the world in designing appropriate postprofessional education programs for PTs.

Methods. The study sample consisted of 10 years of alumni from a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program in the United States of America (USA) and 7 years of alumni from an equivalent DPT program in Australia (AUS). Data were collected via survey and were analyzed using descriptive statistics and phenomenological analysis.

Results. Approximately 10% of participants from each country had completed a formal postprofessional education program. More recent graduates in both groups reported the greatest interest in postprofessional education. Both groups showed high interest in returning to their alma maters, utilizing a hybrid learning format, and participating in international collaborations. Orthopedics and musculoskeletal were the specialty areas of greatest interest in the USA and AUS, respectively. Barriers to pursuing postprofessional education identified by both groups were cost and lack of access/locations. Focus group participants identified access to a mentor and increased recognition as important aspects of postprofessional education.

Discussion and Conclusion. Universal interest in, and barriers to, postprofessional physical therapy education exists worldwide. Offering hybrid education including international collaboration and mentoring targeted at recent graduates may be effective in meeting the needs of busy PTs. Institutions looking to establish successful postprofessional education programs should take cost, access, time, and area of study into consideration.

Karen C. Westervelt is a clinical assistant professor in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at the University of Vermont, 106 Carrigan Drive, 310 Rowell Building, Burlington, VT 05405 ( She was a PhD student at Bond University on the Gold Coast of Australia at the time this research was conducted. Please address all correspondence to Karen C. Westervelt.

Jennifer Chenette is a recent graduate in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at the University of Vermont.

Liana Merkel is a recent graduate in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at the University of Vermont.

Jeremy Sibold is an associate professor and assistant dean for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Vermont.

Linda Crane is a dean of Teaching and Learning at Bond University.

Wayne Hing is a professor and head of Physiotherapy at Bond University.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Received February 06, 2018

Accepted February 27, 2018

Copyright2018 (C) Academy of Physical Therapy Education, APTA
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