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Physical Therapy


The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) 2020 strategic plan mandated that the clinical doctor of physical therapy degree (DPT) will be the minimum practice standard. The APTA failed to articulate a functional practice description recognizing the varying levels of preparation. The current literature validates the existence of a stepwise pattern of professional development in similarly evolving disciplines. Applied nursing research by Benner (Benner model of professional development, 2001) identified five stages of professional development and characteristics that were useful in the discipline's advancement. The purpose of the study was to apply the structure of the Benner Model to physical therapy outpatient practice. A mixed methods design was used where the sample populations, expert and new DPT, were stratified and purposeful according to work setting, location, state licensure, and professional performance. The study found that a five stage professional development path with unique discipline characteristics existed for the physical therapy discipline.


A Dissertation Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Doctor of Education, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, Connecticut, May 2011.


University of Connecticut



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