Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Renee Mabey


Physical Therapists -- education; Students, Health Occupations; Surveys and Questionnaires


Purpose: This study analyzes the accessibility and perceived value of contact hours prior to a student's acceptance to a professional physical therapy (PT) program from clinicians' perspective. There is limited research regarding the effectiveness of pre-admission clinical contact hours in PT. The results may help the conversation on whether contact hours should be a requirement prior to acceptance into a program, and the impact the requirement may have on practicing clinicians.

Methods: This study utilized an electronic survey sent to the chairpersons or Directors of Clinical Education of 1-2 accredited programs in each state (n=48) that has a PT program, asking them to distribute the survey to all clinical faculty affiliated with their respective programs. Follow up emails were sent to encourage participation. Survey items gathered information related to pre-admission clinical contact hour experiences and perceptions of usefulness, and limited participant demographic information.

Results: Clinician respondents represented 34 states; 64% of the clinicians practiced in communities less than 250,000 people. Of the 553 respondents, 77% were female, and 42% of all respondents practiced in an outpatient orthopedic (hospital-based or private practice) setting. A majority of respondents (n=510; 95%) believed that pre-admission clinical contact hours were beneficial for students. The main benefits for students were getting a better understanding of the profession and determining career choice (n=284; 55%) and gaining experience/exposure to the profession (n=139; 27%). Clinicians cited their roles when working with pre-admission students as educating and answering questions (n=396; 75%), and ensuring students observe a variety of physical therapy settings and patient diagnoses (n=80; 15%). Some (n=29; 5%) believe contact hours were not beneficial stating, "I feel it is another hoop to jump through for most students," and "It takes up other clinical time that [professional PT] students could be benefitting from." Overall, clinicians believe that a quality contact experience is the result of exposure to a variety of PT settings and patients (n= 377; 36%) along with interacting with the PT and patients (n=355; 34%).

Conclusion: Practicing clinicians suggest that pre-admission contact hours are beneficial in helping students understand the profession, choose a career in PT, and numerous other benefits. Future analyses will compare these results with 2 other studies, to determine if there is a correlation between clinician, faculty, and student perceptions of pre-admission clinical contact hours. Results may be useful to physical therapy programs as they formulate or revise admission requirements.