Date of Award

Spring 2005

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Urban Services - Urban Education

Committee Director

Linda Bol

Committee Member

John L. Echternach

Committee Member

Jill Jurgens


The purpose of this research was to examine the methods and degree to which content related to cultural competence is incorporated into current entry-level physical therapist education. Face-to-face interviews were performed with 10 program directors from various physical therapist education programs across the country to obtain in-depth information regarding cultural competence in the physical therapy curricula. A questionnaire was sent to all of the 193 accredited physical therapist education programs in the United States as a second means to collect information regarding the methods and extent to which cultural competence is included in the physical therapy curricula. Data were collected from 104 out of 193 accredited programs in physical therapy in the United States for a 53.8% response rate. For prerequisite coursework, 74% of the respondents reported requiring 2 or more psychology courses, with 41.5% of the respondents requiring 1 or more sociology courses. The majority of the respondents (81.7%) reported requiring coursework related to psychology of illness or patient behavior within the professional curriculum. Clinical methods of delivering material related to cultural competence included offering multicultural clinical experiences (74%), international clinical experiences (26.9%) and use of standardized patients with a cultural focus (18.3%). Methods and materials used for instruction included courses or portions of courses, textbooks, discussion, case studies and supplemental materials such as videos, literature, journal articles, and activities. The results of a MANOVA revealed a statistically significant main effect for percentage of minority faculty on two of the questionnaire subscales. The means for programs with primarily non-minority faculty (less than 10%) were higher than those programs with a higher percentage of minority faculty (10% or greater) for both of these subscales. Three main themes emerged from the qualitative data: (a) the importance of teaching communication skills, especially non-verbal communication and language; (b) concerns over the use of discussion; and (c) lack of diversity among faculty and students.


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