Positive professional performance as a physical therapist requires a combination of both cognitive and non-cognitive traits. A recent study identified that over 2/3 of the factors that contribute to positive professional performance (PPP) in physical therapists are non-cognitive in nature. One of these factors is Emotional Intelligence (EI). EI has been explored in education, health care, leadership, and the workplace. To date, there has been little-to-no literature on how Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs engage, refine and enhance studentsÕ non-cognitive traits and abilities throughout a DPT curriculum. This research explored two main things: the level of Emotional Intelligence (EI) of DPT students within one institution and how, when and where the DPT program embedded Emotional EI constructs in the 8-semester curriculum.
The study took place in a private University in the Midwest. Subjects included all core faculty (8) and students (29) who matriculated and graduated with the 2019 cohort. Quantitative methodology was used to explore the level of studentsÕ EI as measured by the EQi 2.0. Descriptive statistics provided an ability to analyze studentsÕ total EI along with strengths and weaknesses in the subcategories of the EQi2.0: self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal, decision-making, and stress management. Qualitative methodology, using an intrinsic case study design, examined how and where EI constructs were embedded into the program. Data was gathered from triangulation of artifacts and long-answer core faculty surveys. Through inductive and deductive reasoning and coding, themes and assertions were generated on current practices, the DPT curriculum, admission processes, faculty pedagogy, mentoring and advising.
Quantitative findings revealed the total EI mean score for the study sample of DPT students was on the higher end of the mid-level/normal range in respect to the US population. One-third of the cohort scored in the high range for total EI and only one student fell into the low range of total EI. Qualitative findings demonstrated that EI constructs were embedded throughout the curriculum and instructional practices. This was done both intentionally and unintentionally through coursework, clinical experience, professional behavior development and student advising.
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:
It is recommended that the DPT program studied, along with others, consider deliberately embedding opportunities for non-cognitive growth and development throughout the DPT journey from admission to graduation. If non-cognitive factors are the primary reason for positive professional performance, then DPT curriculum and instructional practices should emphasize their development. Recent research has demonstrated the enhancement of non-cognitive skills, specifically EI of physical therapy students. If academic programs can do this, it is possible to impact student resilience and success, promote professional development and improve the patient experience.