Program Characteristics Influencing Application to a Physical Therapist Postprofessional Residency Program
Purpose/Hypothesis: To identify program characteristics participants considered most important when applying to a physical therapist postprofessional residency program (PTRP). Number of Subjects: 429 Materials and Methods: The authors developed an online survey based on existing research, input from APTA staff, and focus groups of graduating PT students and postprofessional residents. APTA staff sent an email link to the survey to all PTs who graduated from an accredited PTPRP within the last 10 years. All responses were anonymous. There were 15 items addressing the importance of various program characteristics when applying to a PTPRP. Degree of importance was marked as very important=4, important=3, somewhat important=2, and not at all important disagree=1. To determine the relative importance of the factors, we calculated mean scores and ranked the items. Results: Programs completed by respondents were 51% Orthopedic, 14 % Sports, 13% Neurology, 9% Pediatrics, 7% Geriatrics and 1.4% Cardiopulmonary. Respondents were 35% male and 93% entered with a DPT. The 8 most important factors in selecting a program were: #1 Faculty well qualified (3.83), #2 Excellent clinical mentors (3.79), #3 Multiple clinical mentors (3.49), #4 Salary adequate to cover living expenses (3.29), #5 Program employed residents (3.05), #6 Closely affiliated with academic program (2.75), #7 Did not charge tuition (2.74), #8 All instruction in person (2.67). Conclusions: The top 2 factors were the quality of the PTPRP faculty and clinical mentors. Unfortunately, it may be difficult for applicants to evaluate faculty and mentor quality. Many of the other important program characteristics that respondents ranked as somewhat less important such as adequate salary, no tuition, and instruction in person are associated with improved odds of graduating from a PTPRP and obtaining board certification and are easier to assess. Clinical Relevance: In deciding on which PTPRP to apply to, applicants prioritize program characteristics that may be difficult to assess or evaluate prior to attending the program. PTPRPs may benefit students, as well as themselves, by more clearly emphasizing those program characteristics in order to attract prospective applicants. Providing information to applicants about the program’s mentors, and their credentials, in a more accessible way could help applicants make more informed decisions on the best fit for a PTPRP. Students have reported focusing on factors that are less easily evaluated, in particular mentorship. Participants who attend programs that provide live didactic instruction, do not charge tuition, and are paid an adequate salary were more likely to graduate, become board certified, and pass the specialty board examination. Prospective residents typically enter a PTPRP within one year of graduating from their entry-level program. Therefore, entry-level programs should provide education on the most easily evaluated factors correlated with success when selecting a PTPRP.