Transforming Society through Leadership Development: A Call to Action


The APTA Vision Statement: "Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience" is a call to all physical therapists and physical therapist assistants to be leaders in the clinic, in the classroom, in healthcare, and the community. Leadership skills are explicitly mentioned in only 1 CAPTE requirement but implicit in many others. Entry-level education is the ideal place to start leadership development to ensure that the next generation of PTs/PTAs enter the profession ingrained with the current vision and are prepared to be the change agents we need to initiate and sustain transformation at the micro and macro levels. The development of this leadership capacity must also continue during post-professional residency and fellowship programs along with professional development/continuing education programs and experiences. Academic and clinical educators must be prepared to model leadership behaviors explicitly and facilitate this competency development for all students as a regular part of their professional socialization. To be effective in creating transformational change, physical therapist and physical therapist assistants must demonstrate effective leadership at all levels or our profession may become boxed into the role of followers for another generation or more.

Methods and/or Description of Project

This session will identify the need for deliberate integration of leadership development into entry level education. Physical therapist education can learn from examples within our profession and from other healthcare professions about how to integrate leadership development in order to prepare stronger citizen leaders and physical therapy advocates.


Examples from existing healthcare education programs and from the student perspective will be provided. The literature strongly suggests that integration of student leadership development into academic, clinical and extra-curricular experiences is essential to create clinicians who are prepared to utilize leadership skills in everyday clinical practice as well as larger advocacy scenarios.

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

Excellence in physical therapist and physical therapist education requires programs to understand and embrace leadership development principles, as our goal of transforming society will not be accomplished without advocates and leaders in the clinic, within academic and clinical education, and at higher policy making levels. Our professional expectations must evolve from interpersonal skill development and professional behaviors to being collaborative leaders in the healthcare teams and in our communities. APTA supports the development of greater leadership competencies within our professional association membership and within practice, education, and research. Our professional future is dependent upon all physical therapists and physical therapist assistants being committed to self-assess and advance their leadership skills. Entry level education is critical for igniting the spark of leadership while preparing our future and essential roles as leaders in healthcare.


Janke KK, et al. Deliberate integration of student leadership development in doctor of pharmacy programs. Am J of Pharm Ed 2016; 80(1) Article 2.
Tschoepe B, Davis C. ACAPT First Annual Geneva R. Johnson innovation in physical therapy education forum: doctor of physical therapy (DPT): so what? now what? educating DPTs as leaders to meet future societal needs. J Physical Therapy Ed 2015; 29(2) 84-87
Ross LA, et al. Preparation of faculty members and students to be citizen leaders and pharmacy advocates. Am J of Pharm Ed 2013; 77(10) Article 220.
Traynor AP, Boyle CK, Janke KK. Guiding principles for student leadership development in the doctor of pharmacy program to assist administrators and faculty members in implementing or refining curricula. Am J of Pharm Ed 2013; 77(10) Article 221.
Kiesewetter J, et al. Training of leadership skills in medical education. GMS Zeitschrift für Medizinische Ausbildung 2013, Vol. 30(4)1-16

Course Objectives

Course Objectives: By participating in this educational session, the attendee will be able to
1) Compare and contrast evidence-based frameworks for developing leadership competencies within physical therapy at entry-level

2) Cite examples of other health professions’ integration of leadership skills into entry level educational curricula

3) Assess the existing program curricula and identify areas for curricular change

4) Discuss opportunities for explicit academic and clinical faculty leadership development

5) Develop a plan to integrate at least 1 new student leadership development experience into the program in the short term and long term

Instructional Methods

Lecture, small group discussion, panel discussion

Tentative Outline/Schedule

1) Introduction - define leadership; discuss how leadership differs from advocacy, administration and management; identify the need for leadership development in entry level physical therapist education (20 minutes)

2) Identify essential principles for student leadership development from other healthcare professions. (20 minutes)

3) Examine frameworks for Integrating student leadership development into the didactic, clinical and extra-curricular student experiences. (30 minutes)

4) Student examples of leadership development and impact on their leadership development path. (20 minutes)

5) Small group discussion- review your curricula and develop list of areas where student leadership development could be implemented in your program and identify need for faculty leadership development. (20 minutes)

6) Question and Answer (10 minutes)

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  • Control #: 2519571
  • Type: Educational Session
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Dr. Cathy Ciolek, Amelia Arundale, Dr. Jennifer Green-Wilson, Frederick Gilbert
  • Keywords:

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