Background and Purpose.
The need for physical therapist (PT) students to graduate with strong teamwork knowledge and skills has never been greater. Although many PT educational programs are preparing graduates to work effectively in an interprofessional team environment, attention to the corresponding importance of collaborative intraprofessional (PT/PT assistant [PTA]) preparation for efficient, cost-effective patient care must not be lost.
Starting in the first course of the program, learning experiences on the preferred PT/PTA relationship are woven throughout multiple courses over the 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) curriculum. Students practice components of effective teaming, make decisions about the direction and supervision of a PTA, and deepen their understanding of the legal and ethical complexities of PT/PTA teams in practice. Specific learning activities on the PT/PTA relationship are described.
Survey data and class learning experience and assignment feedback on the PT/PTA curriculum reveal multiple themes related to PT student learning using this model. Themes include increased understanding and confidence in PTA knowledge, skills, and roles; recognition of the potential for increased efficiency and improved patient care with PT/PTA teaming; and the importance of PT/PTA communication and relationship. Most respondents to a 1-year postgraduation alumnae/i survey report the collaborative PT/PTA educational experiences helped prepare them for clinical practice with PTAs.
The need for physical therapy services is increasing, and as professionals, PTs have an obligation to meet this need in a cost-effective way. Using the skills of a PTA continues to be an effective strategy to address this issue. PT students are often not prepared to direct and supervise PTAs in the clinic due to insufficient educational preparation.
This curricular thread model incorporates content pertaining to direction and supervision of PTAs and intraprofessional team building across a 3-year DPT program to better prepare clinicians for practice.