Essential competencies for physical therapist managing individuals with spinal muscular atrophy: A delphi study

Jean Fitzpatrick Timmerberg*, Kristin J. Krosschell, Sally Dunaway Young, David Uher, Chris Yun, Jacqueline Montes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background and purpose With the availability and development of disease-modifying therapies for individuals with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), new emerging phenotypes must be characterized, and potential new treatment paradigms tested. There is an urgent demand to develop an educational program that provides physical therapists (PTs) worldwide the necessary knowledge and training to contribute to best-practice care and clinical research. A competency based education framework is one that would focus on outcomes not process and where progression of learners would occur only after competencies are demonstrated. The first step toward such a framework is defining outcomes. The purpose of this Delphi study was to develop consensus on those competencies deemed essential within the SMA PT community. Methods Purposive selection and snowball sampling techniques were used to recruit expert SMA PTs. Three web-based survey rounds were used to achieve consensus, defined as agreement among >80% of respondents. The first round gathered demographic information on participants as well as information on clarity and redundancy on a list of competencies; the second round, collected the same information on the revised list and whether or not participants agreed if the identified domains captured the essence of a SMA PT as well as the definitions for each; and the third asked participants to rank their agreement with each competency. Results Consensus revealed 35 competencies, organized under 6 domains, which were deemed essential for a PT working with persons with SMA. Discussion In order to develop a curriculum to meet the physical therapy needs of persons with SMA, it is imperative to establish defined outcomes and to achieve consensus on those outcomes within the SMA community. Conclusions This study identified essential competencies that will help to provide guidance in development of a formal education program to meet these defined outcomes. This can foster best-practice care and clinical decision-making for all PTs involved in the care of persons with SMA in a clinical and research setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0249279
JournalPloS one
Issue number4 April
StatePublished - Apr 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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