Migrant Farm Workers Project: The Evolution from Community Service to Leadership


This presentation describes the evolution of a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program’s Migrant Farm Workers Service Project from a primarily community service learning project to one which incorporates activities designed to develop student organizational and leadership skills.


A DPT Program collaborates with a local school district to provide musculoskeletal screenings for young adult migrant farm workers and development and scoliosis screenings for their children. The goals were to provide students with early patient/client interaction with an underserved and culturally dissimilar population. Initially, the program was coordinated by the faculty. However, the curricular goal was modified to include the development of student organizational and leadership skills. Over the past 8 years, the third year students were trained to plan and organize the screenings, prepare all documentation and equipment and instruct the first and second year students on the application of the specific screening tests and implementation of the plan on site.


Faculty assessment of the implementation of the program under student leadership has been very positive. Students demonstrated a willingness to take ownership of the project, coordinated the needed activities, and provided appropriate guidance and training to underclassmen before and during the actual screenings. They incorporated feedback from previous years to improve the flow of the process and developed enhanced patient education activities. Focus groups were used to solicit feedback from the students to the course instructor. The students reported an appreciation for the amount of work and organization required to run pro-bono services. They also voiced an increased confidence in their ability to organize, implement and lead a health promotion program.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education

Leadership skills have been shown to be an important part of health care practice. Schafer, Lopopolo and Luedtke (2007) state that new graduates, by 2010, would need to be moderately independent in performing human resource skills, a confirmation of the earlier work by Lopopolo, Schafer and Nosse (2004) which identified delegation and supervision skills as necessary skills for entry level physical therapists. The National Interprofessional Competency Framework presents domains necessary to demonstrate interprofessional collaboration which includes a Collaborative Leadership Domain where “learners/practitioners understand and can apply leadership principles that support a collaborative practice model” (Bainbridge, Nasmith, Orchard & Wood, 2010). It is imperative that physical therapy educational programs develop opportunities for students to develop these skills to be effective entry-level practitioners upon graduation. We believe that this program provides such an opportunity in a real-life clinical setting.


Lopopolo, RB, Schafer, SD & Nosse, LJ. (2004). Leadership, administration, management, and professionalism (LAMP) in physical therapy: a Delphi study. Physical Therapy, 84(2), 137-150.

Schafer, SD, Lopopolo, RB & Luedtke-Hoffman, KA (2007). Administration and management skills needed by physical therapist graduates in 2010: a national survey. Physical Therapy 87 (3): 261-281.

West, M., Armit, K., Loewenthal, L., Eckert, R., West, T. and Lee, A. (2015) Leadership and Leadership Development in Healthcare: The Evidence Base. London, Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management © The Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management 2015. Retrieved March 18, 2016 @

Bainbridge, L., Nasmith, L., Orchard, C. & Wood, V. (2010). Competencies for interprofessional collaboration. Journal of Physical Therapy Education 24(1), 6 – 11.

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  • Control #: 2519122
  • Type: Platforms
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Dr. Dennise Krencicki, Stephanie Muth
  • Keywords:

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