Doctoral entry-level requirements: Perceptions and perspectives of practicing physical therapists in Western New York State
Brogan, Michael S
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In 2000, the American Physical Therapy Association presented their Vision 2020 statement that includes the premise that all physical therapists will be at the doctoral level by 2020. The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify the perceptions and perspectives of practicing physical therapists in Western New York State relative to the change in entry-level requirements to the doctoral level, to establish an enhanced understanding of the needs of the profession as articulated by practicing clinicians, and to assess whether education is driving the practice of physical therapy or whether practice is driving physical therapy education. Data were analyzed using the grounded theory of analysis, which led to the core category or central concept of this study, coined Being-Out-of-the-Loop . The Basic Social Process that emerged, which captured the essence of the participants' perspectives and perceptions relative to doctoral entry-level requirements was also Being-Out-of-the-Loop . Participant responses clearly demonstrate that they were unaware, uniformed, and Out-of-the-Loop when addressing the doctoral entry-level initiative. The Basic Social Process identified in the study is represented in a theoretical model made up of six elements (sub-categories), which frame the respondents' overall perspectives and perceptions of doctoral entry-level requirements. Additionally, findings of this study suggest that participants believe that there is a need to expand the entry-level curriculum and that there are benefits and liabilities associated with moving to doctoral preparation. Overwhelmingly, participants support a residency type clinical training model. They share the belief that doctoral preparation provides the best opportunity to improve the status and future of the profession, and from their responses, it is apparent that practice is driving education. Implications of this study include the need for the members of the profession at-large to recognize that the majority of physical therapists are unaware of the doctoral initiative and the Vision (2020) of the profession; moreover, the lack of clinical support for doctoral preparation seems to be due to their degree of uncertainty and not related to their clinical judgment.