Mandatory continuing education in physical therapy: Survey of physical therapists in states with and states without a mandate

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Background and Purpose. Although formal continuing education (CE) in physical therapy is one part of professional development, its value for renewing licensure is not shared by all states. The purpose of this study was to explore the differences in how physical therapists pursue formal continuing education on the basis of state mandate, sex, years of experience, practice specialty, American Physical Therapy Association membership, motivation, and perception of the benefits of CE. Subjects and Methods. A survey questionnaire was sent to 3,000 physical therapists in 7 states-1,500 to physical therapists in states with mandatory CE and 1,500 to physical therapists in states without a requirement. A total of 1,145 usable survey questionnaires were returned, for a response rate of 38.2%. Results. Physical therapists in states with mandatory CE averaged 33.8 hours of CE per year, whereas physical therapists in states without a mandate averaged 28.3 hours per year; 5.9% of therapists in states without a mandate reported taking no CE at all, and 10.8% reported taking 2 or fewer hours of CE within the preceding 5 years. No statistically significant relationships were observed between the amount of CE taken and years of experience, sex, or practice specialty. Therapists who reported membership in the American Physical Therapy Association participated in 7.2 more hours of CE per year than therapists who did not report membership. Significant motivational variables that respondents noted for taking CE were state mandate, increased clinical competence, and certification. Therapists overwhelmingly (96.2%) believed that CE had a beneficial effect on their clinical practice. Discussion and Conclusion. Results from this study suggest that mandatory CE does have a significant association with the number of formal CE hours taken by physical therapists.

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