Physical Therapy Education Revisions According to Appalachian Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants

Paige Freeman

Dr. Michael Lane PhD, Department of Exercise Science

According to the American Physical Therapy Association and associated literature, the Physical Therapy profession has not changed significantly since its modern beginnings despite the obvious changes in technology and research. The lack of these changes can leave graduates underprepared for the challenges of the workplace and have an increased variability in practice, yet students continue to pay more for the same inadequate education. These issues exist overall within the Physical Therapy and Physical Therapist Assistant professions but has other unforeseen impacts on specific communities. The Appalachian region, a notoriously underprivileged area, experiences a myriad of disparities: educational, health, socioeconomic, etc., which research has shown that Physical Therapy services can potentially aid in alleviating. As a result, the Physical Therapy profession is unable to adequately respond to these needs appropriately. Therefore, this paper responds to these challenges by assessing the opinions of these providers regarding which skills were deficient and which were emphasized the most within their respective educational program. For those who work within the Appalachian area, the greatest disparities that exist were determined in conjunction with their responses regarding educational deficits. A short survey via Qualtrics was created utilizing these questions, sent out to Physical Therapy associations, programs, individuals, and companies within Appalachia. Overall, the results indicated that physical therapy programs adequately prepared the participants to treat injuries and perform patient care, but students were underprepared in terms of stress management, time management, dealing with high-risk situations, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and endocrine systems dysfunctions. They also indicated that socioeconomic disparities were the most prevalent. Therefore, it is the duty of physical therapy programs to evaluate and change in order to progress the profession and become more educated about the Appalachian region to become a better overall provider.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 5-4-2021


Michael Lane

Mentor Department Affiliation

Exercise and Sport Science

Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level



Exercise and Sport Science

IRB Approval Number (if applicable)