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It takes a clear vision and strong foundational values to map the educational pathway for future generations of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. A new report from the cross organizational Education Leadership Partnership is creating the way forward.

The report, "A Vision for Excellence in Physical Therapy Education," is the culmination of the partnership's work and the product of stakeholder surveys, expert panels, and targeted research aimed at articulating not just a vision for physical therapy education, but the major conceptual pillars supporting that vision. The complete report was published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Education as an open-access article.

Contributors to the report include the founding members of the partnership — APTA, APTA Academy of Education, and the American Council of Academic Physical Therapy; as well as other partnering organizations and community partner representatives.   

"This vision represents a collaborative viewpoint of the multiple stakeholder groups and individuals that have considered an array of opinions and resources to conceive a future that would demonstrate how the profession has advanced its opportunity to achieve excellence in physical therapy education," the report states. "There is broad endorsement of this vision from the stakeholder group, and our expectation is that education stakeholders will now move from envisioning the future to effecting meaningful change in physical therapy education in the coming decades."

Reading the entire report is the best way to get the complete picture of where the partners hope education will evolve over the coming decades. In terms of structure, the document is organized around a central vision statement supported by six foundational "pillars."

The Vision Statement

The vision statement stresses the importance of shared values, robust partnerships, and a commitment to evidence-based approaches. The report includes both the longer vision statement and a more concise "vision sentence" that distills the statement into "Advancing excellence in physical therapy education across the learner continuum to meet societal health needs and optimize patient and client outcomes." The complete vision statement:

"Excellence in the practice of physical therapy requires a well-developed educational framework for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. That framework must include strong partnerships among education stakeholders for a shared commitment to the development and application of evidence-based approaches in education and practice. The learning continuum begins with exposure to the profession and progresses through entry-level education programs, postprofessional or posttechnical development, and continuing education throughout physical therapists’ and physical therapist assistants’ careers. By optimizing movement, physical therapists and physical therapist assistants address challenges that impact the well-being of individuals and communities. We serve as leaders, in collaboration with other health care professionals, to overcome barriers, increase access to care, and improve health outcomes."

The Pillars

The pillars — the elements identified in the report as key to achieving the vision statement — are discussed in detail, complete with guiding principles and background on development. The six pillars and their definitions are:

Accessibility of education. "Physical therapy education is an accessible and financially viable option to individuals interested in pursuing and advancing their career in physical therapy."

Collaboration and networks. "Effective decision-making and continuous learning are driven by greater connection, knowledge-sharing, and access to information within clinical and academic partnerships and across education stakeholder groups."

Competency-based education. "Individuals are assessed on an evidence-based, consensus-driven set of learner performance outcomes over time, and progress along the learner continuum when competence is demonstrated."

Diversity, equity, and inclusion. "Physical therapy education is equitable, inclusive, and welcoming to individuals interested in pursuing and advancing a career in the profession, so that learners, educators, and leaders reflect the many dimensions of individual differences represented in communities and society."

Education research and data management. "Use of education research, data, and data analytics drive decision-making to identify processes that promote learner development and outcomes to meet the needs of society."

Infrastructure, capacity, and faculty development. "Physical therapy education programs along the learning continuum have adequate resources to accomplish education aims."

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