Document Type


Publication Date

January 2003


The objectives of this study were to identify the prevalence of shared learning in U.S. physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) education programs; determine what terminology is used for these courses; and identify perceived barriers, benefits, and challenges of the educational interactions. A survey, designed to collect information about the educational interaction between PT and OT students, was mailed to all program directors (n = 206) at each of the academic institutions (N = 103) in the United States with accredited or developing entry-level programs in PT and OT. A census study was conducted, and the entire study population received a survey. A total of 206 surveys were mailed, and 123 were returned (59.7% response rate). Of program directors, 40 (67.8%) of the PT and 42 (65.6%) of the OT program directors reported that their students shared courses with each other. None of the PT and only 8 (12.5%) of the OT directors reported that students shared clinical experiences. The term interdisciplinary was used most frequently to refer to shared educational experiences. Benefits of shared learning included sharing resources, collaboration, learning about the other profession, and gaining respect for the other profession. Challenges to shared learning included resource constraints, curricular differences, competition and differences between disciplines, relevance of course work, and different faculty expectations. Barriers reported by program directors whose students did not engage in interdisciplinary education were resource constraints, curricular differences, faculty attitude, and failure of past attempts. A model of interdisciplinary education that seeks to instill collaboration and understanding among professions is difficult to implement without shared clinical experiences. Most students in entry-level PT and OT programs in the United States do not currently have the opportunity to practice the teamwork that will be essential when they enter their respective professions.