The Perceived Role of Spirituality in Physical Therapy Education

By Gale Lavinder, Upasna Patel, Marc Campo and Steven W. Lichtman.

Published by The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society

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The objective of this study was to investigate the role of spirituality in Physical Therapy education. Background/Significance: Physical therapists are expected to show compassion, integrity and excellence towards their patients. Although spirituality has been examined in other health care fields, these values have not been explored or delineated in physical therapy. Understanding the role of spirituality may facilitate physical therapy students’ ability to recognize patients and families spiritual needs and improve the quality of care and enhance compassion. Subjects: A survey questionnaire was developed by the investigators and mailed to the Director of Clinical Education/Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education of 182 accredited Physical Therapy education programs in the United States. Methods: The survey, cover letter and postage-paid return envelope were mailed to the subjects. Two weeks later a postcard was sent as a reminder to complete the survey. Four weeks later, a follow-up cover letter with a copy of the survey and a postage-paid return envelope was mailed to all subjects whose survey had not been returned. The survey consisted of a definition of spirituality, 2 demographic questions, 3 factual questions and 15 Likert-scale opinion questions addressing the importance of spirituality. In the cover letter the subjects were supplied with the following definition of spirituality: “Spirituality is an internal experience that provides a sense of purpose in life in relation to self and others.” To analyze the data descriptive statistics were used including means, frequencies and percentages. Results: A total of 111 surveys were returned for a response rate of 61%. Sixty percent of respondents indicated that spirituality is not being taught in their PT curricula. Sixty-nine percent agreed that Physical Therapy students need to be educated on the role of spirituality in healthcare. Forty-one percent indicated that the role of spirituality has not been explored in physical therapy and 22% indicated that it has been explored. Finally, 47% of respondents reported that incorporating the spiritual domain in the curriculum would reinforce APTA’s Core Values and Code of Ethics. Conclusions: Although a majority of ACCE/DCE’s perceive that spirituality is important and should be included in the physical therapy curriculum, 60% of programs do not include it in their curricula. If the values outlined in APTA’s Vision 2020 encompassing spirituality (compassion, integrity and excellence) are to be obtained, physical therapy programs must begin addressing it in the curriculum.

Keywords: Physical Therapy and Spirituality, Education

The International Journal of Health, Wellness and Society, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.133-154. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 10.201MB).

Dr. Gale Lavinder

Director of Clinical Education, Physical Therapy Department, New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York, USA

Gale Lavinder has been a physical therapist for 28 years. She has worked in a variety of clinical settings, including pediatrics, geriatrics, and acute care before joining the faculty at New York Medical College as an assistant professor and Director of Clinical Education.

Upasna Patel

New Jersey, USA

Upasna Patel is a physical therapist in New Jersey, USA.

Dr. Marc Campo

Professor, Physical Therapy Program, Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, New York, USA

Dr. Campo is an Associate Professor of Physical Therapy, Mercy College, USA.

Dr. Steven W. Lichtman

Research Coordinator, Cardiopulmonary Outpatient Services, Helen Hayes Hospital, West Haverstraw, New York, USA

Dr. Lichtman is the Director of Cardiopulmonary Research, Helen Hayes Hospital, USA.