An innovative multiple sclerosis education program improves self-rated competencies in physical therapy students


Effective strategies for improving clinical reasoning and competence among DPT students are needed. Residency may be an effective path for development of advanced clinical skills. Specialized, optional education tracks within a DPT curriculum may also develop clinical competence in particular areas of practice. The Multiple Sclerosis Standardized Training and Education Program with University Partners (MS STEP UP) is an innovative program that provides specialized training for DPT students who are interested in in neurological rehabilitation, specifically the care and treatment of people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The purpose of this study was to examine the outcomes of MS STEP UP on self-rated competencies compared to students who did not participate in MS STEP UP.


The 2-year educational track is conducted concurrently with the second and third year of the DPT curriculum. The track includes didactic instruction; fulltime focused clinical experiences, and service activities. Scholars were encouraged to tailor classwork and capstone projects to focus on MS-related topics. Supplemental shadowing experiences provided opportunities to observe MS-specialized therapists, neurologists and other providers. Scholars regularly participated in community activities including National MS Society events, fundraisers, and self-help groups. The outcome used to evaluate the track was the MS Competencies Rating Scale (MSCRS), which was completed by each scholar before they started MS STEP UP and at the end of the first and second years. Students in the standard DPT curriculum were asked to complete the MSCRS at the same time points; data are currently available from these students for the first two time points only.


Twelve DPT students have completed the 2-year MS STEP UP program. MSCRS data showed the number of competency items on which the MS STEP UP scholars rated their knowledge as “above average” or “excellent” increased significantly each year (p<.001) from a mean (±SD) of 0.67±1.7 items (0%) at baseline to 24.5±4.7 items (56%) after the first year, and 41.3±2.6 items (94%) after the second year. The number of items rated “above average” or “excellent” after the first year was significantly greater among the MS STEP UP scholars (56% of items) than the students in the regular curriculum (16% of items, p<.001). Four of the first six scholars have obtained MSCS certification.

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

Demonstrated by self-rated competencies, MS STEP UP improves the clinical skills and knowledge of participants, more than students in the standard DPT curriculum. In addition, the program appears to adequately prepare graduates to become MS certified specialists. Whether this increase in self-rated competency translates to more efficient clinical decision making is yet to be determined. This model of embedded specialty training may be effectively used to develop specialty training programs in additional clinical areas.


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  • Control #: 2526019
  • Type: Platforms
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Dr. Lisa Johnston, Angela Rosenberg, Diane Meyer, Kaye Gooch, Prudence Plummer
  • Keywords:

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