What’s Lacking in Rehabilitation Education?

I’m only going to speak on Physical Therapy with this topic even though the field or rehabilitation is far wider than that…  Please remember that as you all read this.

I’m probably only going to scratch the surface on this topic and this discussion will continue to evolve.  The medical world, more specifically the rehabilitation world has gotten (in my opinion) too hung up on degrees,  pieces of paper, what others are doing, other professions “infringing” on their own and doing “what the book says”… Here is a little about what I see and have seen…

I was interviewing a PT a while back for a staff clinician position. (Note: this person was a new grad).  The interview went well and this person seemed to be potentially a team player and had some good knowledge.  After the interview, we got to the always uncomfortable money discussion.  I asked this person what they were looking for and I do not think I was prepared for the answer as I spit out my coffee.  “It has to be over $100,000”.  I was flabbergasted…  My response was- “I direct the place and I don’t make than and how am I supposed to pay you way over my senior clinicians who have FAR more experience.  This potential clinician responded with- “we’ll I have my Doctorate”.  I looked back, said that was nice and ended the interview.

OK- Let me say that I fully agree with the DPT (hell, I have one) but it needs to be taken in perspective.  I’m all for gaining more respect in the medical community and I am all for progressing even further into required Residencies and Fellowships but we also need to take a step back and look at the basics!

What about work ethic?

What about a desire to work with other professionals?

What about a desire to educate other professionals on what you do?

What about taking clinical experience and combining it with research to make TRUE evidence base practice?


I think some of these issues are generational, I think some are learned and I think some has to do with our education system.  We teach students to read books and find answers in lab manuals. We teach students so that they can pass their board exam…  Obviously passing your board exam is kinda key-  You think???  BUT- Why not teach students how to take the board exam but also how to think outside the box. 

We need to teach PRACTICALITY.  How is XYZ you learn in school going to translate into a real patient?  How is a real patient going to translate into XYZ.

If we want to take the next step in gaining respect in the medical community we need to do the following tasks…

1- Teach practicality

2- Teach how to collaborate with other professionals

3- Teach how to combine research with clinical experiences

4- Teach how to take the blinders off

5- Teach where to find techniques/etc that you won’t learn in school


I am sure some of you will agree with what I am saying and some of you will disagree.  Not every school is like this, not every graduate DPT program is like this and not every PTA Program is like this.  Take Rob Butler at Duke and Mike Voight at Belmont-  those guys are doing things the way they should be done.  They are preparing students for the real world and they are the ones helping shape the new generation of rehab professionals.

As I embark next week on educating my first Cohort of PTA Students, I can only hope that my students come out with a thought process that sets them apart.  That they come out prepared for their board exam but they also know PRACTICALITY and can think outside the box.  That’s my goal…  This is going to be fun!

One thought on “What’s Lacking in Rehabilitation Education?

  1. Jessica

    I agree with you that it is important that schools should try to educate students on all aspects of not only knowing the facts, but also what it means to be a practical Physical Therapist. However, I feel like this particular individual may not have been using his or her common sense. I have learned that when going into an interview, you want to do your research so that way you can bring your own questions to the table. I used this same logic when looking at possible salary ranges for a new graduate depending on the state I decided to live in. All it took was a couple of key words into google. Now granted I may have been fortunate to have graduated from Northern Arizona University that has a professional development class with many bright classmates who ask many questions, but, even before getting into a physical therapy program, I was curious on what the potential salaries were offered. That being said, I strongly feel that this individual did not properly prepare his or herself for the interview.


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