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  • News From NEXT: McMillan Lecturer Outlines Keys to Excellence in the Physical Therapy Profession

    Tom McPoil, PT, PhD, FAPTA, said he intentionally structured the title of the 50th McMillan Lecture—"Is Excellence in the Cards?" as a question "to raise an element of doubt or uncertainty in our quest to achieve excellence." After all, he said during his delivery of the lecture on June 13 as part of the APTA NEXT Conference and Exposition in Chicago, he has several concerns regarding the profession's ability to achieve excellence.

    Before describing the reasons for his uncertainty, McPoil did recognize some of the profession's remarkable accomplishments since he began his career in 1973. "We no longer serve as a subservient technician in the health care system, our students now obtain an exceptional education and are granted a doctoral degree, we can practice in a variety of specialty areas in multiple practice environments, and we have achieved the ability to practice autonomously with patients having direct access to our services," he noted.

    But he said there still is room for improvement from both clinical and academic perspectives, and the remainder of his lecture outlined those perspectives. From the clinical standpoint, he described 3 areas.

    First, McPoil questioned continued acceptance of examination and management methods that may have been proven to have no evidence to support their use. As an example, he identified what is known as the podiatric model, which classifies foot types based on the concept of subtalar joint neutral position. McPoil said that subsequent studies—including those he and colleagues conducted—showed that "subtalar joint neutral position had no relevance to the typical pattern of rearfoot motion. In short, our results challenged the validity of the podiatric model." Yet, he continued, many physical therapist education programs and postprofessional continuing education courses still teach the model. McPoil expressed his hope that the profession will continue to stress the importance of using methods that have been validated with basic science and clinical evidence, especially at entry-level and in education programs, "as it is our new doctor of physical therapy graduates who must serve as our profession's change agents."

    Second, McPoil expressed concern over a lack of acknowledgment of historical research studies that provide evidence for a practice's continue use. He quoted a 2009 article by Mary Halefi ("Forget This Article: On Scholarly Oblivion, Institutional Amnesia, and Erasure of Research History," Studies in Art Education) that "recurring themes, issues, and concerns are part of any field" and failing to cite them along with more contemporary studies risks the loss of past scholarly endeavors upon which current research may be based. "Hopefully," McPoil said, "our professional journals will always perform their due diligence" to retain the contributions of past scholars and researchers in the profession.

    Inconsistence in the level of care was McPoil's third area of needed improvement. He noted some probable causes for inadequate care, such as limited patient time resulting from low payment rates, some highly specialized areas of practice that not all PTs are familiar with, and lack of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) that address needed services. As for specialized areas of practice, he said that physical therapist-to-physical therapist referral was "rare," and the need for intraprofessional referral needs more emphasis during entry-level education. Concerning CPGs, McPoil argued that while important, they cannot always guide the clinician to an appropriate decision and "cannot replace the need for clinical reasoning and practice knowledge." He continued that such knowledge "can be achieved only through residency or fellowship training."

    To that end, McPoil said that it may no longer be feasible to train a generalist at the entry-level, and the profession must consider allowing specialization to begin before graduation. He identified challenges to developing residency and fellowship programs, such as student loan debt, salaries not commensurate with advanced clinical specialization, and a lack of federally funded support. He expressed his hope that the profession will prioritize development of these programs, as needed funding for them won't occur until they are the expected route following professional graduation. "Our pathway to excellence demands no less!" he said.

    McPoil followed up with his thoughts on achieving academic excellence, specifically the need for every faculty member to have "a personal agenda for scholarship that includes publication."

     

     

    Comments

    • Excellent interview to highlight Dr. McPoil's presentation! You are spot on Tom!! Thanks for all that you do! john

      Posted by John Heick on 6/23/2019 3:39 PM

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