Do physical therapist employers, faculty, and clinical instructors have the same expectations of new DPT graduates?


American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)


Tampa, FL

Publication Date / Copyright Date

June 2012


Purpose: This study aimed to determine entry-level characteristics of new Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) graduates from the perspective of physical therapist employers (PTE), academic faculty (PTF), and final affiliation clinical instructors (CI); determine consensus of those characteristics; and determine if new DPT graduates met entry-level expectations in the adult, acute rehabilitation practice setting or where they have fallen short of expectations. Subjects: Participants included 35 CIs, 40 PTEs, and 43 PTFs, recruited from CARF accredited adult, acute rehab facilities (PTEs and CIs) and PT education programs with DPT graduates (PTFs). Methods: A 4-round classic Delphi study was conducted with 3 participant panels through SurveyMonkey™. Participants rated suggested characteristics and definitions for agreement and ranked them for importance on 5-point Likert scales ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” and “very unimportant” to “very important”, respectively. Controlled feedback to participants included median and interquartile range with a summary of rating rationale responses by round. Results: Percent response of Likert scale agreement ratings and importance rankings determined consensus for “strongly agree” and “very important”. Overall Delphi study participation was 60.2%. Agreement and importance opinions of 53 participant generated entry-level characteristics and definitions showed a lack of consensus amongst participants. Five characteristics met 80% consensus for importance: safe, ethical, integrity, communication, and recognition of red flags for PT; only safe achieved consensus for agreement. Seventy-nine percent of participants agreed that new DPT graduates are meeting expectations, 15% agreed with concerns and 6% disagreed. Conclusions: Results appear to indicate consensus of select entry-level characteristics and majority agreement that new DPT graduates are meeting expectations albeit with some concerns in the adult, acute rehab practice setting. Agreement ratings and importance rankings appear to indicate divergence in opinions of new graduate characteristics. Recommendations: Further investigation is needed to understand differences in participant group opinions of entry-level expectations and determine consensus in other practice settings.


Physical Therapy

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Peer Reviewed