Integrating Advocacy Activities throughout a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program


The purpose of this presentation is to describe how a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program (DPT) integrated advocacy activities throughout an eight-semester curriculum. CAPTE requires that DPT students Òparticipate in professional and community organizations that provide opportunities for volunteerism, advocacy and leadershipÓ and Òadvocate for the profession and the healthcare needs of society through legislative and political processes.Ó


The DPT Program consists of an eight-semester curriculum, including five-consecutive semesters of didactic and integrated clinical education, and three semesters of full-time clinical education. Semesters 7 and 8 include didactic coursework alongside the clinical coursework. In Semester 1, students are introduced to topics related to advocacy (core values, ethics, cultural competence, and legislative/political engagement) and utilize APTAÕs Take Action. Through service-learning, students also interact with a community organization, providing health promotion, wellness, or fitness (HPWF) services to either children, adults, or older adults. In Semester 2, students are introduced to our state initiative, PT Day at the Capitol, hearing from state leaders in the profession and legislature. In Semester 3, students interact with a different community organization, providing HPWF services to children, adults, or older adults. In Semester 4, students have the opportunity to participate in PT Day of Service with faculty, alumni, and a community organization. In Semester 5, students interact with another community organization, completing their lifespan exposure to HPWF services. Students also return for their second experience at PT Day at the Capitol, speaking directly with legislators related to topics important to physical therapy. In Semesters 6-8, students engage in patient advocacy in clinical environments. In Semester 8, students complete the APTA Leadership Development Tool from LAMP, which includes assessment of community leadership development.


Students in the DPT program are required to regularly engage in advocacy activities related to patient care, community, and legislative needs. On the annual graduate survey, 96-98% of the Classes of 2017 - 2019 (N=82, representing 63-81% of the respective classes), reported being prepared at, or above, entry-level in regard to their preparation to Òpursue lifelong professional development regarding clinical excellence, service, and scholarship.Ó Forty-six to 67% of graduates reported being prepared Òabove entry-level expectationsÓ or Òmuch above entry-level expectations.Ó Ninety-six to 100% of graduates reported being prepared at, or above, entry-level in regard to the program outcome of participating Òas a provider and advocate for the health promotion, wellness and fitness of individuals and society,Ó with 67-83% of respondents indicating they felt prepared above, or much above entry-level expectations.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:

Instruction in effective advocacy activities is one method of optimizing physical therapy education to reduce healthcare costs. Participating in legislative and political efforts related to physical therapy is an important civic activity benefiting our patients and profession. Understanding and working with community organizations to provide HPWF activities extends physical therapy benefits beyond the traditional clinical environments. The non-traditional activities incorporated in this DPT program provide these types of educational opportunities. Graduates report the success of the educational methods.

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  • Control #: 26748
  • Type: Platform Presentation - Non-Research Type
  • Event/Year: ELC2020
  • Authors: Jeannette Anderson
  • Keywords:

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