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Abstract

Purpose: Evidence exists in the literature that allows admissions committees to predict which students will be most successful in entry-level physical therapy educational programs. Evidence linking modifiable predictors of academic performance to currently enrolled students allowing enhancement of their performance during enrollment is lacking. Previous healthcare education literature indicates that stress has a negative predictive relationship with academic performance, and that stress is the highest in the beginning of an academic program. Research studies with medical students report exercise assists in minimizing stress and improving academic performance, while the role of leisure time has also been investigated. No study has explored the role that stress, exercise, and leisure time may have in predicting academic performance in physical therapy students. Method: Physical therapy students (N = 37) who had successfully completed the first year of the program were recruited. Participants completed a questionnaire measuring their stress level and the time spent exercising and participating in leisure activities. Grade point average was used to measure academic performance. A hierarchical multiple regression was performed with each of the three predictor variables and the one outcome variable. Results: A significant negative predictive relationship was observed between stress (M = 43.73, s = 15.90) and GPA (M = 3.75, s = .31), p = .042. The stress predictor [r = .293, r2 = .086], explained only 8.6% of the variance in GPA. Conclusions: Higher stress predicts decreased academic performance in first-year physical therapy students. Future research on stress modification could be beneficial in improving performance in students struggling in an academic program.

Author Bio(s)

Daniel W. Flowers, PT, DPT, is an Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center - Shreveport in the School of Allied Health Professions. He is a Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy, and Program Director of the Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Residency program.

Amanda Bernard, PT, DPT, is an Instructor of Physical Therapy at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center - Shreveport in the School of Allied Health Professions. She serves as the Physical Therapy Program's Director of Clinical Education.

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