Why We Need To Keep Taking Students

I write this in response to a call I got from a major DPT program last week asking if we could take a few more students this year.  They informed me that  "many of our sites have stopped taking students".  This is troubling and while I don't have any statistics, rumor has it that clinical sites with C.I.s who are seriously committed to student development are getting more challenging to come by.  I thought I would take a few minutes and speak to this topic....  

I'll never forget a number of years back reading this quote from an article by Dr. Boissonault published in JOSPT:" Although considerable variation currently exists in how TJM is integrated into professional degree physical therapy program curricula, a majority of faculty responsible for teaching manual therapy believe that the most beneficial way to enhance their students’ preparation in TJM is to increase emphasis on this intervention during clinical education experiences"(1).  WHAT??  So we are saying that arguably the most challenging psycho motor technique in all of physical therapy is not being taught by the faculty but instead they are hoping that unpaid volunteer C.I.s will take the lead on this?? At the time I happened to love TJM, was recently certified by James Dunning and his crew over at the Spinal Manipulation Institute, and had no problem working on this with my new student who just told me he had minimal exposure to TJM in school.  However, the notion that this is how it should go down just seemed a bit off.


There are basically just two ways to respond to the situation we see here, one that extends well beyond the example of TJM.  The first is to take a strong stance that doctorate program faculty shouldn't be able to sit back and collect a student's tuition money while unpaid C.I.s work their butts off for 12 weeks teaching them complicated and clinically important material.  This is not an unreasonable stance, and I am lying if I say over the past 5 years of training doctorate students at a rate of 4-6 per year I don't occasionally find myself hanging out in that camp.  The other choice is to realize that DPT programs are in a really tough spot as CAPTE requires them to cover a ton of material, much of which we outpatient folks may not feel is "need to know" information.  The bottom line is that doctorate students aren't learning in school many critical skills which will hinder their ability to be successful in practice and thus advancing our profession.  An army is only as strong as its individual troops, and for that reason alone we can not turn a cold shoulder to these students.  We need them to come on to the scene playing offense.  We need them to be aggressive in every aspect of their careers, from marketing directly to the public to lobbying for legislation and demanding it passes sooner rather than later.  With the right tools this next generation of physical therapists will storm in and use the momentum our profession is already building to push us the rest of the way up the mountain.  Want our profession branded?  Want unrestricted direct access in all 50 states? Then take the time to polish up our soon to be colleagues, build their confidence, and unleash them on the world.  That or we can keep sitting around complaining about CAPTE, your choice.


1. Boissonnault, W., & Bryan, J. M. (2005). Thrust joint manipulation clinical education opportunities for professional degree physical therapy students. The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, 35(7), 416–23.