Purpose: Biophysical agents (BPA) are widely used in physical therapy clinical practice and is a content area included in entry level physical therapist education programs. Retention of this content is critical for clinical practice. The purpose of this study was to measure to what extent 3rd year physical therapist students (PTS) were able to recall knowledge of BPA content after a 2 -year gap by repeating an examination that was given during the first year. Specifically, 1) Is there a significant difference in retention of BPA content/material between the 1st and 3rd year of curriculum, and 2) Does exposure/use of BPA during a clinical education experience (CEE) affect retention of material? Methods: A sample of convenience of 22 current 3rd year PTS who completed a BPA course during their 1st year participated. The comprehensive written examination for the BPA course served as the test instrument to determine knowledge retention. The PTS re-took this exam in their 3rd year of study, after completing their 2nd CEE. The PTS also completed a questionnaire soliciting information about demographics and degree of exposure to BPA during their CEE. A paired t-test was used to compare 1st year and 3rd year total test scores. The PTS were divided based on BPA exposure during their CEE, and test scores were compared using an independent samples t-test. Results: There was a significant decrease in test score from 1st to 3rd year (first year was 89.5% (range: 97.0% - 80.0%) while the 3rd year was 52.1% (range: 39.0% – 67.0%). There was no significant difference (p=0.561) in mean test scores on the 3rd year test for PTS with BPA exposure during CEEs (52.6%) vs those that did not (50.4%). Conclusions: Like other health professions, there was a decrement in knowledge retention. Results indicate a significant loss of retention of BPA knowledge when provided a 2-year gap, which was unaffected by exposure to BPA during CEEs. Exploring methods to improve knowledge retention in BPA curriculum may be needed. Future research should investigate retention with other methods of instruction including those that incorporate more active learning methods.

Keywords: biophysical agents, students, retention, modalities

Author Bio(s)

Jamie L. Greco, PT, DPT EdD serves as an assistant professor in the Duke Doctor of Physical Therapy Division, Department of Orthopedics, in the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC. She is also a former Associate Professor and Executive Director of Clinical Education in the DPT program at Stony Brook University.

Eric M. Lamberg, PT, EdD, CPed is the Associate Dean in the School of Health Technology and Management and a Professor of Physical Therapy at Stony Brook University, in Stony Brook, NY.

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