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The Movement toward Doctors in Physical Therapy

Are Physical therapists doctors? They will be soon. In the past, it was an uncommon practice for physical therapists to earn doctorate degrees. However, with the growing responsibilities of P.T.s in health care systems, a doctorate degree in physical therapy is becoming necessary.

The present movement toward requiring entry-level physical therapists to obtain doctorate degrees has fostered enthusiasm in many practicing and studying P.T.s. As physical therapists have gained a more prominent role in patient care, their roles and responsibilities often require further training.

Additionally, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is promoting their Vision 2020, which includes the criteria that physical therapy will be provided solely by doctors of physical therapy by 2020. Entry-level programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), must transition to the DPT by 2017. So while it is not yet mandated by State Boards, the movement is definitely towards having all P.T.s earn their doctorate degrees (DPT) so as to be able to practice in the future.

Increasing Responsibilities

Over time, physical therapists have earned more responsibilities in health care systems. Beyond aiding patients with injuries or issues in mobility, P.T.s are acting as consultants, educators, and administrators. As the P.T. role is constantly expanding, the necessity for continued education is growing as reported by the APTA. Post Professional DPT degree coursework provides students with the skills they need to succeed in a variety of health care settings and hold a more prominent role in patient care.

APTA's Vision 2020

Although 2020 is many years away, APTA's Vision 2020 is composed of a number of elements that will require years to implement across the entire industry. These elements include:

  • ::  Autonomous Physical Therapist Practice
  • ::  Direct Access
  • ::  Doctor of Physical Therapy and Lifelong education
  • ::  Evidence-based Practice
  • ::  Practitioner of Choice
  • ::  Professionalism

Doctor of Physical Therapy and Lifelong Education

As mentioned above, one of the many elements of APTA's Vision 2020 is for current physical therapists to obtain a doctorate degree in Physical Therapy. APTA is proposing that only doctors of physical therapy practice will provide physical therapy care by the year 2020. Association members and the overall physical therapy industry contend that the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree truly reflects the advancements in the body of knowledge and anticipated responsibilities that a professional physical therapist must master to provide current patient care.

Advancements in the Field

Like many areas of health care, physical therapy has seen several advancements in recent years. These technological and medical developments are reflected in DPT online programs like those offered at Utica College,. As a result, many physical therapists without this additional education and training will not be on the cutting edge in their field. In order to stay competitive and competent in the industry, continued education is a necessity.

Additionally, there have been progressions in evidence-based practice and care as discussed in the PT Journal's “Evidence-Based Practice: Beliefs, Attitudes, Knowledge, and Behaviors of Physical Therapists” report. Working with evidence-based practice in mind is also a part of APTA's Vision 2020. Evidence-based practice includes incorporating up-to-date research, clinical proficiency, patient/client values, and practice management into making health care policy decisions. The advocated use of evidence-based practice is to enrich patient/client management in physical therapy services.

Gaining Recognition

Obtaining a doctorate degree in physical therapy is also a way for physical therapists to gain credibility and much-deserved recognition in the health care industry. Physical therapists have not yet received the acknowledgement and credit they deserve for the care they provide as reported in the New York Times.

With the guidance and support of the American Physical Therapy Association, the movement toward doctors in physical therapy is in full swing, as the critical role of physical therapists in health care continues to grow more pronounced every day. Additionally, as technological advancements and evidence-based practice research becomes more available, doctorate level study will be required for practice. It has become crucial for physical therapists everywhere to seek further education.

Utica College Online offers an innovative post-professional (transitional) doctorate degree in physical therapy program, providing traditional and non-traditional students the opportunity to advance their education and their careers.