Educating Physical Therapists in Women's Health: Recommendations for Professional (Entry-Level) and Postprofessional Curricula

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Background and Purpose.Managing conditions unique to and more prevalent in women is an emerging trend in health care. The key purposes of this study were to determine (1) practice patterns and emphasis of women's health physical therapists, (2) how and to what extent physical therapists were educated about women's health, (3) curricular content deemed important in preparing practicing and professional (entry-level) physical therapists, and (4) by what means therapists may be interested in furthering their knowledge of women's health.Subjects and Methods.Subjects were a random sample (N = 1,021) of members of the Section on Women's Health of the American Physical Therapy Association who completed a survey on their practice emphasis, educational preparation in women's health, and opinions regarding content that should be taught at the professional and postprofessional levels in physical therapist education programs.Results.Thirty-seven percent of the subjects (n = 347), representing 48 states, responded. A majority of respondents (n = 204) reported that up to 25% of their practice involved treating specific women's health issues and most had received minimal academic education specific to women's health. Examples of curricular content recommended for entry into the profession included osteoporosis, musculoskeletal conditions, obstetrics, and urogenital concerns, while pathology, pelvic floor assessment/treatment, endocrinology, and gynecology were recommended for the postprofessional level. Of the 347 who responded, practitioners' preference for post-professional education was via continuing education (n = 229) or certificate programs (n = 227).Discussion and Conclusion.As physical therapist education program curricula evolve in response to degree advances and changes in health care policy, educators can use this information to strengthen both professional and postprofessional curricula in women's health.

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