The literature supporting the use of biophysical agents (BPAs) for patient care in Physical Therapy is conflicting. Although some guidelines exist, the academic institution makes decisions as to which individual BPAs are included in the Doctor of Physical Therapy curriculum. This study investigated current BPA curricular content in physical therapist education programs.
Two hundred thirty-eight emails were sent to program directors and/or individuals with an identified role of teaching BPAs at accredited physical therapist education programs across the United States. Eighty-six people completed the survey (response rate 35%). The survey consisted of 4 sections: instructor demographics (teaching responsibilities and role), institutional demographics (geographical location, and cohort size), curricular content (timing of course, contact hours, curricular changes, student assessment, and importance of BPA inclusion), and one open-ended response question.
For most programs, BPA is a stand-alone course (72.3%) taught in the first year of curriculum (72.0%). The most common instructional method included a combination of lecture and laboratory (89.2%). A combined percentage of 77% of respondents reported changes to the BPA curriculum in the past 5 years (ie, decrease in contact hours, change in content, or change in delivery method).
Discussion and Conclusion:
Evidence and clinical practice patterns were referenced by respondents as factors contributing to changes. Certain BPAs are taught using multiple methods, assessed in a variety of ways, and perceived by instructors to be more important to include in the curriculum than others. In addition, there is variation among BPAs regarding the expected levels of competency for students. Overall, the extent to which each BPA is taught in physical therapist education program curriculum aligns with current need for instruction in safe, appropriate operation and clinical usage. However, educators need to be cognizant of both clinical practice patterns and changing evidence and to be willing to alter curriculum as needed to graduate competent physical therapists.