Determining why physical therapists choose certain pathways to expertise is not well understood. Developing an understanding of these different choices is important for the physical therapy profession and the future of postprofessional education.
Review of Literature:
Pathways to expertise as a physical therapist have evolved over the history of the profession, including the most recent emergence of residency education. Regardless of the path taken, physical therapists have a societal duty to be lifelong learners. The decision on which path to pursue is influenced by many factors, including financial stress, personal factors, and relational obligations. Developing an understanding of these different pathways and barriers for physical therapists is essential if the physical therapy profession is to advance with the evolving needs of society.
Participants were from a stratified purposive sample of Doctor of Physical Therapy Students (n = 124) across the eastern, central, and western regions of the United States.
This study was a secondary analysis using hierarchical cluster analysis based on students’ orientation toward lifelong learning and future professional engagement, self-rated likelihood of pursuing various postprofessional education pathways, and perception of personal and interpersonal strains as a barrier to postprofessional education.
The cluster analysis resulted in a 4-cluster solution representing different student subtypes: clinically oriented average learners; resilient, clinically oriented lifelong learners; academically oriented lifelong learners; and strain-limited, clinically oriented lifelong learners.
Discussion and Conclusion:
Results from this study describe important differences in how student physical therapists view postprofessional education and the pathways they choose to pursue. Factors such as lack of awareness and the perception of personal or interpersonal strain may influence these decisions. Understanding postprofessional education decision making of student physical therapists is of particular interest to the physical therapy profession given the current debates related to student debt and the necessity of residency education. Further research is needed to understand how to increase awareness and diminish barriers to quality postprofessional education for physical therapists.