Use of a Community Volunteer Program to Develop Value for Patient-centered Care in Physical Therapist Professional Education

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Background and Purpose.When the Physical Therapy Program at the University of Colorado's School of Medicine transitioned from a 2-year master's degree program to a 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program in 2004, the faculty took the opportunity to rethink the program's philosophy and employ innovative instructional methods to reinforce key curricular components. As part of this new curriculum, the Community Volunteer Program (CVP) was established to enhance experiential learning and emphasize a patient-centered care philosophy. The purposes of this paper are to: (1) describe the CVP and its intentions as an educational strategy to reinforce our philosophy of patient-centered care; (2) share student feedback on the program, based on survey results; and (3) discuss future directions for the CVP experience as a component of physical therapist professional education.Method/Model Description and Evaluation.The CVP pairs students with community volunteers who have a selfidentified physical disability. Each student follows his or her volunteer throughout the 3-year curriculum and learns about life with a disability directly from the volunteer's and family's perspectives and experiences. Course assignments help to guide students in their interactions and provide opportunities for reflection and guided learning. An online survey was conducted with 3 student cohorts each at the midpoint of their 3-year program to assess their perceptions of the CVP.Outcomes.The survey response rates for students in the graduating classes of 2007, 2008, and 2009 were 92%, 76%, and 67%, respectively. Overall, survey results were positive and indicated that the CVP enhanced student learning in the intended focus areas related to patient-centered care and contributed to the students' professional growth.Discussion and Conclusion.Results from this survey have been used to assist in program planning and to insure the experience is effective for students. The CVP has enhanced our DPT curriculum through tangible experiences and interactions with individuals in our community who have disabilities. Physical therapist professional education programs may want to consider this model to augment student learning.

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