A Comparison Study of the Career Paths of Physical Therapy Program Directors in the United States
Purpose: The entry-level degree for physical therapists today is the DPT, where the expected outcome of its graduates is clinical practice, and there is no formal training in academic teaching or administration. The purpose of this study was to determine the leadership training and styles of accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program directors (PD) and to gain a better understanding of their preparation and path to program leadership.Methods/Description: The survey instrument was sent electronically to all program directors of accredited DPT program directors in the United States (N=233) and the response rate was 46%. The results of this study are presented as comparisons between PT Program Directors with DPT degrees and those with other academic terminal doctoral (OATD) degrees. Survey items included both qualitative and quantitative questions and analyzed for similarities, trends, and patterns between the two groups. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, t-tests, and chi square calculations.Results/Outcomes: Significant differences were found between groups regarding leadership training, style, and characteristics. Most DPT program directors were in their first DPT PD position and had between 3-9 years’ experience as a PD. Most subjects reported feeling moderately to well-prepared for their first role as PD, crediting the most useful primary means of preparation after earning their entry-level PT degree as 1. on the job training (79%), 2. completing an advanced degree (69%), 3. seeking a mentor (60%), and 4. leadership training from their institution (41%). Both groups reported the same four primary methods in the same order. Similarly, the method of leadership preparation of current PDs with a DPT in their role as PD did not differ significantly at the specified .05 level (p = .672). Most (84%) program directors reported that their preferred leadership styles were Servant leadership and/or Transformational leadership. A significant difference was found in the preference for the transformational style for the DPT group at the .01 level. Both groups had similar plans for the next five years, with a combined total of 67% of current PDs planning to leave their post as PD, indicating a significant number of vacancies in the near future.Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Our Leadership Landscape: Perspectives from the Ground Level to 30,000 Feet: The survey findings suggest that there is a growing need to train and develop current PT practitioners and faculty members to fill the role of PT program director. The majority of current PT PDs agree that securing a mentor and building a strong support network are key components of leadership development and should be an integral part of a leadership-training program. The results of this study suggest that formal training programs are valuable resources for leadership training. A well-defined, ongoing, and specific training program for future leaders, which builds on and leads to effective leadership behaviors and characteristics may be a potential solution to an impending leadership crisis in PT education.References: Day, M., Shickle, D., Smith, K., Zakariasen, K., Moskol, J., & Oliver, T. (2014). Training public health superheros: Five talents for public health leadership. Journal of Public Health, 36(4), 552–561. doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdu004 Desveaux, L. (2016). The rise of leadership in physical therapy. Physical Therapy Reviews, 20(5-6), 344-346. doi:10.1080/10833196.2016.1142163 Desveaux L., Nanavaty G., Ryan J., et al. (2012). Exploring the concept of leadership from the perspective of physical therapists in Canada. Physiother Can., 64(4), 367–75. http://dx.doi.org/10.3138/ptc.2011-42. Educational leadership: Reflecting on a personal philosophy. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 12(3),13-17. Gersh, M. (2006). Servant leadership: A philosophical foundation for professionalism in physical therapy. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 20(2), 12-16. Giuffre, S. (2007). Professional background & training of physical therapy department chairpersons (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Pittsburgh, PA. Gmelch, W. (2002). The call for department leaders. Paper presented at American association of colleges for teacher education. (54th), New York, NY, Feb.23-26.