What Are They Thinking?
At the PT 2010 conference in June, the Oxford Debate topic will be if practicing physical therapists should be grandfathered and granted the use of DPT as the clinical designation. They must be out of their collective minds to even consider such a thing. Over the last few years there has been a push for practicing PTs to get a transitional DPT. Doing this would undo everything that accomplished.
Having a DPT is an indication of a specific level of knowledge and skill achieved. It's accepted that anyone with the degree is at that level. Awarding the degree to anyone practicing therapy without additional education or skills would eliminate any significance attached to the degree. I have a DPT. I know. There is a noticeable knowledge difference between someone with the degree and someone without. Give a DPT to everyone and you might as well start working on a new degree because it will be worthless.
Sadly there are many practicing therapists who shouldn't be practicing. Some have become too comfortable and let their skills lag. Others have burned out. Others may have passed the boards but really shouldn't be practicing. In the course of the last year I've worked with several of each. They no more deserve a DPT than I do a medical degree.
A blanket DPT would also hand evidence-based practice a setback it will take years to recover from. Just who do they think is looking at the evidence in the first place, the DPTs or someone who hasn't looked at a journal in years? Except for an occasional journal club, none of the therapists I work with look at the literature. We have a disconnect because I use the literature and they don't believe I've learned anything different.
We can also kiss practice without referral goodbye since we'll have no standard to indicate who is capable of doing so and who isn't. DPTs are bombarded with peripheral joint and outpatient medicine. They are exposed to X-rays, medications and treatments appropriate for working in an outpatient setting. I'll never be convinced someone has gained the same knowledge level simply by working in a clinic. There are some excellent clinicians out there who could make me eat those words. They are a minority of those working in outpatient clinics.
I have no problem with grandfathering practicing PTs so they can continue to practice. My problem is the awarding of the title. If I'd have known this was coming, I might have waited and avoided the expense and effort that goes with obtaining the degree. Why bother if it's going to be given to me? I truly hope the debate is simply a debate instead of a trial balloon for actually doing such a thing. So far I've been a loyal PT, supported my profession, paid my dues and toed the party line. Giving everyone a DPT will cause me to rethink some of that. I'll still get the PhD but APTA membership isn't a requirement to do so.