Changing Profile of the Physical Therapy Professoriate—Are We Meeting CAPTE's Expectations?

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Abstract

Background and Purpose.

Changing accreditation standards continue to place greater demands on physical therapy (PT) faculty. The 2016 accreditation standards implemented by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) include requirements for all core faculty to possess a doctoral degree and show evidence of scholarly productivity. Program directors have additional requirements as does the collective faculty, which must include at least 50% with postprofessional, academic doctorates. This study describes the changing characteristics of the PT professoriate and determines how well it meets CAPTE's current expectations.

Participants.

The sample included 2,602 full-time core faculty members from 225 educational institutions.

Methods.

Data from the 2015 Annual Accreditation Report were extracted by staff in the Department of Accreditation; personal and program identifiers were removed. Variables included age, sex, highest earned degree, clinical specialization, faculty role, academic rank, years of academic experience, institutional affiliation, workload distribution, level of scholarly productivity, faculty rank, and institutional classification. Descriptive data were analyzed for the total sample, and chi-square analyses compared differences in scholarly productivity based on sex, faculty roles, academic rank, highest earned degree, and institutional affiliation. A cluster analysis was used to determine the characteristics shared by faculty whose scholarship reflected a high vs. low level of productivity as measured by the number of disseminated, peer-reviewed products. Faculty were also grouped according to the program to determine the percentage of programs that met various CAPTE standards related to credentials and scholarship.

Results.

Most core faculty were women who averaged 49 years of age and 13 years of academic experience. The most common rank held by 45% of faculty was assistant professor. Faculty spent the greatest amount of time teaching (50%) and the least amount in clinical practice (<6%). Nearly 60% possessed an academic doctorate, and 40% were certified clinical specialists. Most faculty were employed by small, private institutions with faculty sizes ranging from 3 to 29. Only a small percentage of faculty members and program directors did not meet CAPTE's academic credential requirements. However, 26% of the program did not meet CAPTE's requirement for an adequate blend of doctoral degrees. The variables that best distinguished between faculty with high versus low levels of scholarly productivity were type of doctoral degree, academic rank, and years of academic experience.

Discussion and Conclusion.

When compared with faculty data collected by CAPTE in the preceding decade, today's professoriate shares a similar age range, sex distribution, years of experience, academic rank distribution, and workload percentages as their predecessors. However, the percentage of faculty with doctoral degrees and clinical specialty credentials has increased, and there has been a slight shift in the number employed in small, private institutions. Unfortunately, their level of scholarly productivity has remained stable, and 75% of programs still have one or more faculty members with no scholarly record. Thus, there continues to be a need to recruit more faculty with academic doctorates to replace the large number of retiring senior faculty and to meet the research demands of today's practitioners who are engaged in evidence-based practice.

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