Curricular Efficiency, Decreased Student Costs, and Outcomes
The physical therapy program at Northern Arizona University (NAU) recently underwent major curriculum changes. The intent was to improve curriculum efficiency by using the summers more for course delivery. This timeline shift permits students to graduate one semester early. Cutting our program from 33 months to 28 months, allowed us to save the average student one semester in tuition, program fees, and living expenses. In addition, they enter the workforce sooner than previous cohorts as well. It is unknown if this improvement in efficiency affects the outcomes of the program. We currently have three cohorts that have completed this accelerated curriculum. The purpose of this study is to compare the comprehensive exam and NPTE scores of DPT students who completed an accelerated 2.5 year program to those who completed a 3 year program at the same institution.
Using results from our programÕs comprehensive exam and the NPTE, we compared students that graduated from NAUÕs previous 3 year DPT program (Class of 2015, 2016, and May 2017) to those that graduated from the newer 2.5 year accelerated program (Class of December 2017, 2018, and 2019).
For our programÕs comprehensive exam, the 2.5 year cohorts averaged 80% on the comprehensive exam. For these cohorts, the department used the academic PEAT purchased from the FSBPT. The 3 year cohorts averaged 71.5%. For these cohorts, the department used an academic exam purchased from a private testing company. A student who scores 144 (72%) on this exam has a 95% chance to score 600 or greater on the NPTE. Additionally, we compared the studentsÕ NPTE results. The 2.5 year cohorts scored, on average, 666.5. The 3 year cohorts scored, on average, 691.2.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:
These preliminary results demonstrate that programs can be more efficient and cost-effective yet achieve similar outcomes. Although different comprehensive exams were used for the accelerated cohorts, the results suggest that the cohorts performed similarly. We will continue to assess the effectiveness of the accelerated model for future 2.5 year cohorts. Decreasing student debt is a major focus of our profession. If physical therapy education can be delivered in a more efficient manner that does not sacrifice student outcomes, this can decrease the burden of student loans experienced by many physical therapy graduates.