Join me in a walk down memory lane, back to the time when you were a physical therapy (PT) student. My memories include the many hours spent in lectures and labs trying to remember things such as:
- Whether the mobilization performed was supposed to be a glide or a slide, and why did it really matter.
- The intricacies of the many pathological conditions and movement dysfunctions that we might encounter as a physical therapist and that the manifestations of a condition depended on which nucleus groups in the brain were in some way, and to some extent, affected.
- “Up with the bad, down with the good.” However, we were not actually supposed to use the term “bad leg.” I thought that was odd because patients often say, “The right one is my bad one.” After all, when I use the term “bad” leg, I am not intimating that one appendage is evil.
- Modalities that often did not seem to have literature support. I was asked to learn about cavitation and microstreaming, both of which have not been proven to occur in humans. But I had to repeat what had been taught so that I could receive a passing grade. I have not used ultrasound since my PT student days.
- The pediatric stages of growth, and the geriatric stages of stopping growing. Indeed, while in PT school, I learned that my blurry vision was not due to an allergy of something in the classroom. I learned by accident one day when I pushed my textbook forward that my vision cleared. I was forced to learn at my optometrist about presbyopia. Fortunately, I discovered that I could get glasses with purple rims.
- As a student I thought that much more time should have been spent in the laboratory for soft tissue mobilization, which felt a lot like a massage.
When I finally survived in the PT curriculum designed by the academic and clinical staff of the university, and was sent out to demonstrate my competence in my clinical experiences, I believed I was fully equipped to treat whatever condition I encountered. What I learned is that many of my patients had not read the same textbooks as I did. Several times my brain went into a temporary freezing mode and I thought, “Hmmmm ... I didn't learn that.” I remember being told by my clinical instructor to complete a motor control examination on the next patient. The “motor control examination” part of my brain was devoid of instructions. I wondered whether I missed that part of a lecture while I focused my attention on what was causing my blurry vision.
What I eventually learned is that the content and terminologies of PT program curricula are not exactly the same for all PT programs. When I asked the instructor what she defined as a “motor control examination,” I discovered I had the knowledge to complete the examination, but just had not been taught the specific term that the clinical site therapists used.
My 2-year PT education included only approximately 3 hours of lecture in the area of women's health PT. When Dr Jill Boissonnault accepted me as a student PT, I, and she, quickly discovered that I had more to learn. I had not learned about left on right sacroiliac joint rotations, or specifics about the physiological and biomechanical changes caused by pregnancy. Her patience was unwavering, as she had to explain, several times, that the sacroiliac joint rotation was based on the patients left and right and not my left and right. I learned how to be a women's health physical therapist from Jill, and I am so very proud to be able to continue to call her my friend. Although I do think she did not take a new student for quite a while after her experience with me. Indeed, she is, to a very large extent, responsible for my tenure as Director of Research for the Section on Women's Health, which then led to being appointed as Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy (JWHPT).
The decision-making process regarding what to place in any curriculum is not an easy task. While I was an associate professor in the Physical Therapy Department at the University of New England, I was involved in the design of the new DPT curriculum. Hours of arduous meetings and discussions and debates were completed and sometimes made me wonder whether the drug Versed was widely available. The discussions were focused not only on which courses should be included but also on specifics about the content.
This issue of JWHPT focuses on the research that has been completed by academicians and clinicians to ensure that PT curricula contain appropriate content in the area of women's health. The authors of the current and the past research (found in the reprints) are to be congratulated on their research and their dedication to ensuring that physical therapists are equipped with the knowledge that will allow them to help the women (and men) that entrust them to help resolve their health issue.
Drs Figuers and Nelson have included an introduction summary in the first article in this summer issue of JWHPT regarding the process employed by a task force appointed by the Board of Directors of the Section on Women's Health for research to assist curriculum design decisions regarding content that should be included in entry-level and postprofessional education. The articles that follow will be most helpful to universities and colleges and the physical therapists who teach in those sites, to ensure that students have the requisite training.
If academicians follow the recommendations from the research completed by these authors, they will have a clear vision for curriculum content without having to purchase bifocals, or trifocals, and the students will have enjoyable experiences when they walk down memory lane.
Nancy Donovan, PT, PhD