Confidence of DPT Students in Assessing and Treating Different Musculoskeletal Body Regions

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster


This study examined the self-reported confidence of Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) students in the assessment and treatment of musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions based on body regions. Most literature assessing DPT students readiness for clinical practice has come from the perspective of educators and clinicians, whereas student perspectives have not been reported. We hypothesized that there would be identifiable differences in self-perceived confidence across the different body regions

Number of Subjects: 148

Materials and Methods:

The study is a descriptive, observational online survey. The survey used a modified Likert scale for the participants to self-report their level of comfort in the assessment and treatment of patients with MSK complaints, both in general as well as specifically for each body region Additionally, the participants were asked to submit written comments to allow for a more complete narrative description.


Included participants N=148 (52 male, 96 female) Respondents represented all geographic regions across the United States.

The respondents had the highest self-reported confidence in the assessment and treatment of the knee by a significant margin, with a mean score of 4.24, with 5 being the highest possible score on the scale. Hip and Lumbar spine were the next highest scored areas.

The Wrist and Hand had the lowest reported confidence at 2.63. Interestingly, every individual body region except for the wrist/hand showed a statistically significant relationship with the overall self-reported confidence score. Thoracic spine and pelvis were the second lowest scores.

Qualitative data included multiple mentions of the distal upper extremity being deemphasized due to belief that it is primarily the purview of Occupational Therapy. Additionally multiple respondents noted the impact of COVID-19 on their preparedness for practice.


This research was able to identify trends in MSK DPT education across the United States. Specifically, current instructional strategies for the content as a whole seem to be effective in instilling confidence for practice. However, lower average confidence in the assessment and treatment of the wrist and hand, thoracic spine, and pelvis indicate that modification of existing methods of teaching these topics should be considered.

Future research examining educators' perspectives about student readiness for practice may be useful to uncover potential differences in expectations between students and those instructing them.

Clinical Relevance:

This study provides a unique perspective on MSK DPT education and how it prepares students for independent practice. Trends identified in this research provide actionable data for both didactic and clinical educators. Furthermore, this data provides topics of discussion for those mentoring and educating new graduate clinicians. With these findings in mind, educators should consider reviewing instructional strategies in areas which showed the least perceived preparedness.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - Feb 16 2024
EventAPTA Combined Sections Meeting 2024 - Boston, MA, United States
Duration: Feb 15 2024Feb 17 2024


ConferenceAPTA Combined Sections Meeting 2024
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBoston, MA

Cite this