Sometimes, the journey is as important as the destination: that's the thinking guiding a partnership looking at the future of physical therapy (PT and PTA) clinical education.
The Education Leadership Partnership (ELP), a group comprising representatives from APTA, the Academy of Physical Therapy Education (APTE—formerly the Education Section of APTA), and the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT), was formed in 2016 with a goal of eliminating unwarranted variation in practice by focusing on best practices in physical therapy education. This year, the partnership took another step toward its goal by forming a subgroup that will continue a dialogue with multiple stakeholders that began with the recent work of 2 APTA education-related task forces and an ACAPT Clinical Education Summit held in 2014.
The new group, called the Clinical Education Strategy Group, is sponsoring an action-planning meeting this fall that will bring together representatives from multiple groups across the spectrum of physical therapy education. Topics for the meeting will include outcome measures, academic clinical partnerships, and essential resources to support clinical education. That meeting will help the strategy group to develop a clinical education research agenda to inform future steps, which likely will include projects and studies with further opportunities for input.
"The ELP has been committed to transparency and engagement since its creation," said Steven Chesbro, PT, DPT, EdD, APTA vice president of education and task force staff. "The Clinical Education Strategy Group and the upcoming meeting are in keeping with those values and will help us move clinical education forward in ways that are informed by as many perspectives as possible."
The strategy group was created after the APTA Board of Directors (Board) recommended in November 2017 that the ELP explore clinical education recommendations that a Board-appointed task force had developed. At the time of the board's decision, APTA President Sharon Dunn, PT, PhD, stated that there are "too many unknowns in need of further investigation, and too many factors beyond APTA's direct control" to commit to any recommendations from the APTA task force.
The APTA Board does not have authority over the ELP and can't formally charge the ELP to take specific actions. Instead, the Board’s action was a demonstration of trust in the ELP and its approach, which involved receiving input from thousands of APTA members and nonmembers in the study leading up to the 2017 board decision. That input came from multiple in-person and online town halls, as well as an online survey, conducted by the ELP.
That commitment to hearing from as many interested parties as possible is shared by the Clinical Education Strategy Group, according to the group’s co-chair, Donna Applebaum, PT, DPT.
"As an educational community, we have invested a lot in our current practices around clinical education, with a collective commitment to best practices, and to figuring out when variations and historical practices are acceptable, and when they're problematic for the system," Applebaum said. "That's why it's crucial that we engage with as many stakeholders as possible. We want to get this right, and the only way to do that is by carefully listening, and then evaluating possibilities that balance our hopes for the future of education with the practicalities we face in the present."
PT in Motion News will continue to follow the activities of the ELP and the strategy group, and will report on developments as they occur.