STUDY DESIGN - Descriptive survey.
OBJECTIVE - To describe the status of diagnostic and procedural imaging curricula within United States physical therapist professional degree programs.
BACKGROUND - As patient direct access to physical therapy services increases, the ability to refer patients directly for diagnostic imaging could promote more efficient delivery of care. Appropriate patient referral is contingent on physical therapists having the requisite knowledge base and skills. While evidence describing imaging competence of physical therapists with advanced training in military institutions exists, evidence is lacking for other physical therapists, including new graduates of physical therapist professional degree programs.
METHODS - Faculty members teaching imaging at 206 United States physical therapist professional degree programs recognized by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education were recruited via e-mail correspondence. An e-mail attachment included the survey on which faculty reported imaging curricula and faculty qualifications, attitudes, and experiences.
RESULTS - Faculty from 155 (75.2%) programs responded to the survey, with imaging being included in the curriculum of 152 programs. Content was integrated by required standalone courses or clinical science track courses, and/or through elective courses. The average reported estimate of imaging contact hours was 24.4 hours (range, 2-75 hours). Emphasis was on the musculoskeletal system, including 76.3% of the required standalone course content. Student competence was assessed in 147 (96.7%) programs, primarily by written (66.7%) and practical (19.7%) examinations. Faculty rated student competence on a scale of 1 (not competent) to 5 (competent), with ratings ranging from a high of 4.0 (identifying normal anatomy on plain-film radiography) to a low of 1.9 (identifying common tissue pathological processes/injuries on ultrasound).
CONCLUSION - While a majority of programs reported including imaging curricula, variability was noted in all curricular aspects. These results may serve as a benchmark for faculty to assess existing curricula, allow for further development of imaging curricula, and provide a benchmark for the profession regarding current level of training for recent graduates of entry-level physical therapist professional degree programs.