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Orthopaedic physical therapy residency training in the USA: A survey of the perspective of all graduates

1 May 2000


Study Design: A survey of residency graduates.

Objectives: To establish a profile ofthe typical graduate; to determine the value and influence of residency training on professional development with emphasis on clinical expertise; to further develop an instrument that will assist residency programs collect information from their graduates.

Background: There is increasing interest within the profession of physical therapy to evaluate residency training as an avenue to provide physical therapists with the advanced skills and expertise required with increasing autonomy of practice in today's changing health care environment. Interest in assessment of student outcomes in the profession has increased markedly over the past decade. This has been driven by accreditation bodies and administrators concerned with allocation of resources. Recent APTA credentialing standards require residency programs to collect information from their graduates on an ongoing basis.

Methods and Measures: A questionnaire was sent to 318 graduates of 11 of the 13 residency programs recognized by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT). A response rate of 72.3% was obtained.

Results: Influence of residency training on clinical skills and expertise received high ("major positive") ratings; on the ability to thoroughly examine (94%), to logically reason (85%), to treat effectively (79%) and efficiently (72%), to "diagnose" (84%), and to treat complex patients (80%). Autonomy of decision-making was the primary factor in determining place of work. Two-thirds of graduates have a secondary position, most commonly teaching or consulting in some form. One-third of graduates are faculty in a residency program. Graduates spend 2% of their time involved in research. "Career interest and fulfillment" was ranked as the single greatest benefit of residency training on career.

Conclusions: Residency training appears to assist physical therapist in developing and refining clinical skills and expertise that are important for increased autonomy of practice. Residency graduates have increased involvement in teaching and specialist roles, but spend little time in research. This questionnaire may serve as a template for outcome measurement in clinical residency programs.


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