Program, Institution and Productivity Characteristics as Predictors of Physical Therapy Education Program Graduation Rates and Licensure Examination Pass Rates
Gresham, Barbara Bailey
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Major changes have occurred in physical therapy education including advancement from the Master's to Doctoral degree in physical therapist (PT) education, and the rapid increase in physical therapist assistant (PTA) programs housed in for-profit institutions. In light of these changes, purposes of this study were to: (a) identify institutional, program and productivity factors related to graduation rate and licensure pass rate in physical therapy education programs and (b) determine whether institutional, program, and productivity factors were predictive of successful graduate outcomes. De-identified data from 200 PT and 274 PTA programs in the U.S. in 2012 was utilized. Correlations were calculated to examine relationships among selected independent variables and dependent variables of graduation rate, first-time licensure pass rates, and ultimate 3-year pass rate. Prediction models were developed using regression analyses. All relationships were generally small. Factors positively related to PT program outcomes included Carnegie classification (research very high activity), full-time clinical education length, number of peer-reviewed articles, research space, and number of faculty with grants. Factors negatively related to PT program outcomes were private institutional status, student to full-time core faculty ratio and faculty turnover. All related variables were predictors of program outcomes. Factors positively related to PTA program outcomes were ratio of clinical education length to program length and Carnegie classifications (Baccalaureate and Master's). Factors negatively related to PTA program outcomes included Carnegie classification (private for-profit), number of cohorts per year, for-profit institutional status, and program length. The primary predictor of licensure pass rates, a negative predictor, was for-profit institutional status. The results can inform stakeholders in PT and PTA education, including program faculty, administrators, students, Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, and the public. Stakeholders may assess or compare programs using results as benchmarking data for characteristics not previously studied. CAPTE's accreditation expectation of faculty scholarly productivity for PT programs was affirmed with the positive relationships to graduation and pass rates. Factors related to Carnegie classifications and institutional status impacted PT and PTA program outcomes and warrant further study. The relationship among clinical education time, performance and licensure exam pass rates is not clear and merits further study.