Sociocultural Education in Physical Therapy Programs across the United States: A Faculty Survey


Physical therapists are expected to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds across multiple care settings. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy (PT) Education and the American Physical Therapy Association recommend inclusion of sociocultural education in the PT curriculum to enhance patient care experiences and to further the global impact of rehabilitation. However, these recommendations have not been explored across the PT programs nationally. This study, therefore, investigated the implementation and assessment of sociocultural education within the PT curriculum of several programs across the United States (US).


A quantitative exploratory survey method was used. An online survey including open and closed-ended questions was developed and emailed to the program directors of 256 accredited PT education programs in the US between August and October of 2019. The survey consisted of 6 demographic, 3 factual, 3 Likert-scale opinion and 4 open-ended questions addressing the inclusion, adequacy and assessment of sociocultural competency education within the PT curriculum. Quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive statistics (frequencies, percentages), and qualitative data by conducting a thematic analysis.


A response rate of 24.6 percent from PT programs across several geographical locations [northeast (23.5%), southeast (29.4%), midwest (23.5%), southwest (11.8%), west (11.8%)] was obtained. Most schools reported a diversity in students (94%), faculty (93%), and curricular models (hybrid-32.4%, traditional-22.5%, systems-based-22.5%). Majority of the programs included sociocultural education in their curriculum (96%), of which 92% reported to having included it for over 3 years. Most faculty (85.5%) perceived that sociocultural education was successfully and comprehensively included in their curriculum. Implementation format included cultural presentations-24.2%, integrated course objectives-23%, cultural immersion experiences (20.5%), stand-alone courses (15.5%) and inter-professional seminars (14.3%). Common content topics included development of sociocultural skills (26.1%), social determinants of health (25%), cultural competency definition and components (24.5%) and shared decision-making models (22.8%), of which, development of sociocultural skills was viewed most valuable by the students (30.1%). Lastly, major themes on best ways to implement the sociocultural education (creating a course thread-60%, use of specific learning activities-52%, use of a stand-alone course-16%, clinical or service opportunities-16%) and assess the sociocultural education (learning activity assessment-30%, clinical performance instrument-12.5%) were determined. More than fifteen percent of the programs reported a lack of any assessment of sociocultural competency in their students and identified a need in this area.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:

This study provides the first formal description of the sociocultural training and assessment practices across several PT programs in the US. Although a majority of the programs include such content in their curriculum, the method of administration and assessment considerably varies. Understanding the role and need for specific sociocultural learning objectives and content may facilitate ways to meet professional standards and enhance student competency in improving the quality of care for their patients.

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  • Control #: 26911
  • Type: Platform Presentation - Research Type
  • Event/Year: ELC2020
  • Authors: Hina Garg
  • Keywords:

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