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Characteristics of Physical Therapists Reporting High and Low Skill Confidence in Examination of the Pelvic Floor Muscles

Shelly, Beth PT, DPT, WCS, BCB-PMD1*; Krum, Laura LaPorta PT, PhD, OCS2*

Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy: September/December 2010 - Volume 34 - Issue 3 - p 89–98
doi: 10.1097/JWH.0b013e3181fcec42
Research Reports

Objective: To investigate the characteristics of physical therapists (PTs) reporting high and low confidence in the examination of pelvic floor muscles (PFMs) and to evaluate the common characteristics of PTs who use little to no PFM examination when treating patients with PFM dysfunction.

Study Design: Retrospective cross-sectional survey.

Background: Educational opportunities for PTs to learn PFM examination techniques are varied and there are many methods to evaluate the PFMs. Factors related to increased confidence in performing PFM examination have not been studied.

Methods and Measures: Women's health PTs (N [SUPERSCRIPT EQUALS SIGN] 1175) received an email invitation to participate in the study. Two hundred three (n [SUPERSCRIPT EQUALS SIGN] 203) PTs completed the 38 question web-based survey (17.3% response rate).

Results: Characteristics of PTs with low confidence include (a) having 1 to 6 months of pelvic physical therapy experience, (b) participated in self-study 1 to 3 times per year, (c) performed first vaginal examination less than 1 year ago, and (d) attended less than 1 day of continuing education. Higher confidence is associated with several factors including increased duration and frequency of experience in performing PFM examination as well as participation in postprofessional continuing education in PFM examination. Respondents using little to no PFM examination had less confidence than PTs who use PFM examination.

Conclusions: To improve confidence in PFM examination, PTs should participate in postprofessional education in PFM examination and should perform this examination with increasing frequency for more than 6 months. Sporadic use of PFM examination may result in low confidence.

1.1634 Avenue of the Cities, Moline, Illinois

2.School of Physical Therapy, Regis University, Denver, Colorado

Copyright © 2010 Section on Women's Health, American Physical Therapy Association