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Competence in physical therapy: A framework for understanding effects of disuse on PT performance

Jul 29, 2021

The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) commissioned a project to develop an empirically-based framework for understanding effects of disuse, defined as a period of professional inactivity, on minimal competence in the professions of physical therapist (PT) and physical therapist assistant (PTA).

The project addressed two specific objectives:

  1. Development of a general framework for classifying the components of competence in the PT and PTA professions;

  2. Drawing on the best available scientific evidence, identification of factors that may influence effects of disuse on these components.

The Healthcare Regulatory Research Institute contracted with a cognitive psychologist to create a report focusing on the development of expertise and skill in complex domains.

Subject-matter experts classified Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist Assistant work as critical work activities in terms of type of task/activity and type of ability required. The critical work activities were then rated for the expected rate of loss due to disuse and how quickly minimal competence can be regained. The results provide a scientific basis for policy recommendations concerning retraining after a period of disuse.

Check out the Center for Excellence in Academic Physical Therapy


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