Disparities in health and health care experienced by sexual and gender minorities in the United States (US) are well documented, and physical therapists (PTs) play a role in perpetuating them. This study aimed to determine to what degree lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) health education and training is integrated into physical therapy education curricula. Studies in medicine and nursing have led to increased curricular attention to LGBTQ health topics; yet, similar physical therapy education research has not been published.
A link to an anonymous Google Forms survey was emailed to Program Directors (PDs) of US physical therapist education programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education for the academic years of 2015–2017. The survey gathered information on the current and optimal number of curricular hours spent on equitable care for LGBTQ patients and perceived barriers to inclusion of LGBTQ curriculum.
Seventy-two of 229 (31%) programs responded to the survey. Half of the respondents reported inclusion of LGBTQ-related topics in the curriculum. The average number of current hours was 1.43 per year. The average number of optimal hours was 2.82 per year. Eighty-nine percent reported that one or more curricular hours per year should be included. Barriers to LGBTQ health education and training include perceived lack of time and adequate faculty training.
Most PDs believe that more hours should be dedicated to LGBTQ health topics. Open-ended question responses reflect various perspectives held by PDs regarding the importance of including LGBTQ health topics and barriers to inclusion. The development of core competencies may facilitate the inclusion of LGBTQ-specific health education in Doctor of Physical Therapy program curricula.
Resources to educate faculty and students on LGBTQ health topics are readily available. These topics may be effectively woven into existing curricula, making it an attainable goal to increase the competency of entry-level PTs to assist in meeting the American Physical Therapy Association's mandate to provide nondiscriminatory care.