I haven't really written before about the transition to the DPT degree, or the APTA's vision 2020 that all therapists hold DPT degrees. Practitioners, educators and other health care providers have very strong feelings about the DPT degree. When I started my graduate degree for physical therapy, my school had already transitioned to the DPT program, so I didn't have the option of finishing with a master's degree. I was OK with it, because I liked the extra coursework and better understanding of the cardiac system, pharmacology and evidence-based research.
There were a lot of times while I was in school when my class and I would discuss the DPT degree, our reputations in a world of bachelor's and master's degree clinicians, and the expectations of an entry-level new graduate. Sometimes we heard a lot of feedback, reminding us that nothing replaces experience, and other times telling us that the DPT degree is the step our profession needed toward attaining direct-access rights.
I wrote an article for ADVANCE a few months ago about early mobility in the ICU, developing collaboration with other disciplines and its impact on patient care. It was an article about standards of practice and implementing a protocol to maximize mobility with critically ill patients. Following its publication, a Letter to the Editor was written by a physical therapist, who basically reminded me that other therapists have been practicing in the ICU for years and I wasn't writing about anything new. I agree with that, and I wasn't implying that therapists hadn't worked in an ICU before. But the response continued to outline how my DPT degree somehow gave me a know-it-all-attitude, how "disheartening" my lack of research was and how "disrespectful" I was to experienced therapists.
I was surprised. The article I wrote was not about education or my degree but somehow my critic connected the dots and interpreted it that way. I wasn't sure if I should write a response, potentially adding fuel to the fire or to bite my tongue and somehow feel guilty about my education. I don't like disappointing people, and I certainly wasn't trying to offend any readers or clinicians when I wrote the article. Aren't we supposed to be educating others, sharing our treatment techniques and our practice experience?
What do you think? Why is there so much discussion about the DPT degree? If I had written that article as a therapist with a bachelor's degree, would the responses been any different? Is there a reason why our degrees define us?