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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine how undergraduate college students, who are potential physical therapy students, perceive physical therapy as well as the new Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. A survey form was created by the authors and was distributed to two universities in the central Arkansas area. Seven hundred and three forms were collected. Descriptive data and Pearson Chi Square (SPSS 10.0) were used for data analysis. Students thought physical therapy was a challenging (76%), physically demanding (72%), and well-paid (79%) health profession. The most commonly recognized interventions used by physical therapists were physical exercises (93%) and massages (77%). Over one-third of the surveyed students were not aware that physical therapy can relieve pain and promote health and well-being (35%). Only 40% of the surveyed students had knowledge of the doctor of physical therapy degree, among which most thought the public should have direct access to these practitioners (73%). Female students showed more awareness and interest in the DPT (p<0.01). The results of this study suggest that students have a positive attitude toward physical therapy. College students also perceive the DPT as educating more competent practitioners. However, DPT programs should pursue efforts to advocate their programs not only on-campus but also off-campus. DPT programs and the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) should promote more intensively to the public the changes that physical therapy is undergoing.

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