Nationwide acute care physical therapist practice analysis identifies knowledge, skills, and behaviors that reflect acute care practice

Sharon L. Gorman, Ellen Wruble Hakim, Wendy Johnson, Sujoy Bose, Katherine S. Harris, Molly H. Crist, Karen Holtgrefe, Jennifer Marie Ryan, Michael S. Simpson, Jean Bryan Coe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background. Acute care physical therapy is a rapidly evolving practice area, but little is known about the skills, knowledge, and behaviors necessary for a clinician to be most effective in this area. Objective. The objective of this study was to perform the first nationwide survey of acute care physical therapists to validate the knowledge, skill, and behavior sets that reflect practice parameters specific for acute care physical therapy. Design. A survey format was used. Methods. The Acute Care Physical Therapy Practice Analysis Survey was created on the basis of current literature and consensus of a 9-member Subject Matter Expert (SME) Group. The survey sections addressed knowledge areas, professional behaviors, and patient/client management approaches reflecting practice parameters specific for acute care physical therapy. Additionally, respondent demographic information was collected. Pilot testing necessitated minor changes in the survey. After revision, the survey questionnaire was sent to a sample of experienced acute care physical therapists throughout the United States. Results. A convenience sample of 522 physical therapists who identified themselves as having extensive experience in acute care practice was used. Of these, 254 completed the survey, for a response rate of 48.7%. Through the use of predetermined decision rules, 34 items were eliminated on the basis of a descriptive analysis of survey results as well as a failure of the items to meet the threshold of specificity for acute care practice, as determined through SME Group consensus. Limitations. The potential for self-selection bias, a sample weighted heavily with American Physical Therapy Association members and Acute Care Section members, and a small proportion of clinicians (<3%) with less than 1 year of acute care experience may limit generalizability of these results. Conclusions. The results of this practice analysis describe distinct knowledge, skills, and behaviors specific for acute care physical therapy. The outcomes of the survey might assist in the development of professional (entry-level) acute care competencies, a petition for the recognition of specialization in acute care physical therapy, or both. In addition, the findings of this practice analysis could serve as the foundation for the development of residencies or fellowships in acute care practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1453-1467
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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