Nearly twenty years ago, The Institute of Medicine and the Sullivan Commission both called for an increase in diversity within health professions to meet the future demand of society (Smedley, Stith, & Nelson, 2002; The Sullivan Commission on Diversity in the Healthcare Workforce, 2004). Unfortunately, ethno-racial diversity within the profession has not changed despite diversity initiatives set forth by the American Physical Therapy Association (Nuciforo, 2014). One suggestion to increase diversity within the profession is for programs to engage in holistic admissions. The purpose of this study was to examine Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) admissions practices. Specifically, this study focused on admission committeesÕ selection priorities.
This study was a part of a larger study which used an explanatory sequential mixed methods design to address DPT admissions. In this phase, 247 U.S. accredited physical therapy programs were contacted. Inclusion criteria was core physical therapy faculty who was either a program chair/director or admissions committee member. The survey was adapted from Agho et al. (1999) and consisted of four cognitive variables and five non-cognitive variables, all of which were measures reported in the literature as factors which positively influence success in physical therapy school as measured by matriculation and/or passing the National Physical Therapy Exam. The overall response rate was 23% for a total of fifty-eight participants. Data was analyzed using measures of central tendency.
Overall, cognitive variables such as cumulative grade point average (cGPA), prerequisite grade point average (pGPA), science grade point average (sGPA), and graduate record examination (GRE) were ranked higher than non-cognitive variables such as interview score, letters of recommendation, increasing diversity, volunteer hours, and prior work/life experiences. Overall, mean cGPA was ranked 2.8 (SD = 2.06), pGPA was ranked 2.96 (SD = 2.06), sGPA was ranked 4.61 (SD = 3.10), GRE was ranked 4.44 (SD = 2.45), while volunteer activities was ranked 6.80 (SD = 1.48), interview score was ranked 5.15 (SD = 2.51), increasing diversity 6.17 (SD = 2.18), prior work/life experience (i.e. military, licensed PTA) was ranked 7.00 (SD = 1.67), and letters of recommendation 6.04 (SD = 2.19), where 1 is most important and 10 is least important. In addition, cognitive variables were also ranked higher than non-cognitive variables irrespective of program demographics such as institutional funding, number of applicants admitted, and Carnegie classification.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:
The primary aim of the physical therapy admissions process is to admit applicants who are most likely to matriculate and pass the NPTE. On face value, non-cognitive admissions variables are not as valuable as cognitive admissions variables. To improve the patient experience through educational strategies such as developing a diverse and culturally competent physical therapy workforce, programs must look beyond academic metrics.