Date of Award
Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
Background and Purpose. Physical therapy is often reported as an under-utilized resource in oncology care. When utilized, physical therapy intervention addresses multi-dimensional symptoms experienced by individuals with a cancer diagnosis. This study examines the following questions: What is the status of physical therapy in North Dakota’s oncology team? What is the working knowledge of the physical therapist on oncologic rehabilitation? Do professional programs provide adequate knowledge to evaluate and treat oncologic patients and their symptoms? The purpose of the study is to determine if the physical therapy intervention received by individuals in North Dakota with a current of previous diagnosis of cancer is current with literature, to determine the knowledge of oncologic rehabilitation by physical therapists practicing in North Dakota, and to identify if physical therapy is part of the intervention for patient with cancer diagnosis.
Methods. A 48-question survey was sent out to all licensed physical therapists in the state of North Dakota. Questions included demographic information, knowledge of oncologic rehabilitation, current practice, patient care, and participation on the oncology rehabilitation team. Data was collected for four weeks and analyzed using Qualtrics software.
Results. A total of 954 surveys were sent out with a response rate of 12.5%, or 110 responses following 74 being returned to sender. A majority of respondents had completed their Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. Only 2 individuals reported serving in an oncology care center. ix Seventy-eight percent of respondents reported that their EMR did not prompt to ask about a cancer diagnosis, while a majority (81.05%) reported asking patients about cancer diagnosis.
Discussion. The majority of physical therapists in North Dakota did not know or did not consider that their profession was a part of standard oncology care at their practice setting; however, about half of physical therapists are willing to be on the oncology team. Low hours of professional classroom education regarding oncologic care were reported, but the majority of physical therapists reported “average” or “above average” confidence in their ability to treat or evaluate individuals with a history of cancer diagnosis. In order to increase awareness of what physical therapy has to offer to oncology care, the profession may benefit from receiving more education in professional school regarding oncology care. Physical therapists may also feel more confident in their ability to develop oncology care programs at their facilities if they have increased information provided in professional school.
Conclusion and Clinical Relevance. Physical therapy is a growing dimension of oncologic care map, but there is room for improvement in educating on the benefits of physical therapy. Because physical exercise and activity have been shown to decrease symptoms of cancer or cancer treatment, it is imperative to include physical therapy as a part of the care map for oncology patients.
Biberstine, Sarah and Larson, Arianna, "Review of the Status of Oncologic Physical Therapy in North Dakota: A Definitive Study" (2020). Physical Therapy Scholarly Projects. 702.