The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT), and the Education Section of APTA are aware of recent communication from Genesis Rehab Services to its university partners regarding a decision to charge a fee to physical therapist and physical therapist assistant education programs for providing clinical education experiences. Genesis is not the first organization to consider this option. This shifting dynamic in the partnership between academic institutions and clinical education sites may have significant ramifications on the future of the physical therapy profession.
In recent years physical therapy education has been significantly influenced by change in both higher education and clinical practice environments. APTA has a responsibility to ensure excellence in physical therapy education that meets the needs of members, including students. At the same time we are committed to promoting a continuum of education that ensures a highly qualified workforce of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants that meets the needs of society. Our commitment to students is to facilitate and promote affordable, accessible, and high-quality educational experiences across the settings in which physical therapists and physical therapist assistants learn.
Current students have enrolled in programs with cost expectations, and programs plan clinical education experiences far in advance. Alterations in clinical education arrangements may seriously compromise the students and physical therapy programs, to the detriment of the profession and the providers—not to mention the recipients—of physical therapist services. Due to potential ethical, legal, payment, and policy impacts, all ramifications must be fully deliberated with respect to affiliation agreements between academic and clinical partners, and on behalf of other stakeholders who may be impacted, including patients and students.
In response to rapid changes in the education arena, the APTA Board of Directors, in January 2016, charged the Best Practices in Clinical Education Task Force to investigate current models of clinical education, define the scope of current and anticipated future needs in clinical education, and investigate options for future clinical education models. Since January, the task force has met approximately 20 times, interviewing multiple stakeholders that include directors and coordinators of clinical education sites, and has examined current evidence and quality aspects of clinical education. The task force’s findings and recommendations will be submitted to the APTA Board of Directors for action in coming months. Believing “we are better together,” APTA asks all involved in physical therapy education to partner in the development of future education models, respectful of the financial demands on students, academic programs, and clinical education sites.
Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, President, APTA
Gina Musolino, PT, EdD, MSEd, President, Education Section of APTA
Barb Sanders, PT, PhD, President, ACAPT