The Annual Checkup By a Physical Therapist: Opportunities for Service-Learning in Physical Therapy Education
Background and Purpose: Physical therapists have a role to play in health promotion, including secondary prevention such as screenings.1-4 The APTA supports administration of an Annual Checkup by a Physical Therapist, similar to medical checkups for individuals as they reach middle age and beyond.5 Service-learning in entry-level physical therapy education is an effective manner to deliver health promotion and wellness screenings.6 The purpose of this research was to describe the process and preliminary results of the Annual Checkup by a Physical Therapist as delivered by entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students. Service-learning was utilized to deliver pro bono screenings to elderly individuals in low-income, underserved areas. Case Description: A total of 45 entry-level DPT students in 3 separate cohorts at XXX University administered the Annual Checkup by a Physical Therapist as a required group assignment within coursework in health promotion and wellness. The program was offered each spring semester over a period of 3 years. The service-learning project involved student-run taskforces for research, marketing, operations, and test/measures. Resources from the APTA plus additional materials were utilized in the design and administration of the event using an evidence-based approach. Students performed standardized functional tests for assessment of posture, balance, gait, flexibility, strength and endurance. Students provided home exercises during the final consultation stage of the event, and referrals were made to local physical therapy clinics as needed. Individual student leaders organized and led the event, including a single project manager and multiple taskforce chairs. Faculty and local volunteer clinicians, who were licensed physical therapists, supervised all student activities. Outcomes: There were 3 separate screenings performed: spring 2017, spring 2018, and spring 2019. A total of 95 individuals from the community aged 50 and above received free screenings. Client satisfaction was very high, and many individuals returned multiple years. There was one adverse event, a minor fall down a step with no significant injury. Student reflections after the event provided insight into the experiential experience of community service and learning from a student perspective. Comments were very positive and indicated a strong desire to keep this event for future cohorts. Discussion: The Annual Checkup by a Physical Therapist can be delivered in a cost-effective manner using entry-level DPT students and faculty-led service learning. Both student and client satisfaction were high. Other entry-level DPT programs should consider similar programs as an outreach for underserved populations. Underserved populations, such as low-income elderly individuals, can benefit directly from administration of pro bono physical therapy screenings delivered by entry-level DPT students under faculty supervision. Individuals received physical therapy screening and appropriate interventions who may otherwise not have received care.