Genetics Education Is Viewed as Important, but Not a Priority in Physical Therapist Education

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Background and purpose.

Little is known about genetics education in physical therapist (PT) education programs. The purpose of this study was to assess the status and perception of genetics education in accredited United States (US) PT education programs.


Two electronic surveys were sent to the following recipients: (1) 205 program directors of PT education programs (PD), and (2) 3,177 subjects drawn from faculty lists of PT education programs and American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Education Section members (PTED). The 18-item PD survey sought to identify the status of genetics education in PT education programs. The 32-item PTED survey sought to assess genetics perspectives relative to the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG) core competencies in genetics.


There were 118 respondents (57.6%) to the PD, and 602 respondents (18.9%) to the PTED. Respondent exposure to genetics literacy came primarily from outside reading (PD and PTED = 53%), while 19% of PD and 26% of PTED had no exposure to genetics literacy. Genetics information was included in courses of 85% of programs, while 15% reported no genetics instruction as a part of the curriculum. Over 60% of respondents believed that genetics literacy was important in the treatment of patients, but > 50% believed genetics education was a priority for PT students and clinicians. PTED respondents noted a mean agreement of 73.7% to the 3 NCHPEG baseline competencies, 83% to the 11 NCHPEG knowledge competencies, 60% to the 5 skill competencies, and 96.5% to the 2 attitude competencies.

Discussion and Conclusion.

PT educators agree about the importance of genetics literacy in rehabilitation, but most don't see genetics education as a priority for PTs. Increasing PT educator awareness about the impact of genetics on rehabilitation is necessary to alter the apparent disparity between genetics literacy and education among PTs.

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