Competency-Based Education and Practice in Physical Therapy: It's Time to Act!

Jean Fitzpatrick Timmerberg, Steven B. Chesbro, Gail M. Jensen, Robin L. Dole, Diane U. Jette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Competency-based education (CBE) is a concept, a philosophy, and an approach to educational design where learner progression occurs when competency is demonstrated. It assumes a set of standard defined performance outcomes for any level of professional practice - students, residents, or practicing physical therapists. Those outcomes are based on the health needs of society and guide the curricular design, implementation, and evaluation of health professions education programs. Lack of a CBE framework - with no required demonstration of competence throughout one's career - has the potential to lead to variation in physical therapists' skills and to unwarranted variation in practice, potentially hindering delivery of the highest quality of patient care. CBE requires a framework that includes a commonly understood language; standardized, defined performance outcomes at various stages of learner development; and a process to assess whether competence has been demonstrated. The purpose of this perspective article is to (1) highlight the need for a shared language, (2) provide an overview of CBE and the impetus for the change, (3) propose a shift toward CBE in physical therapy, and (4) discuss the need for the profession to adopt a mindset requiring purposeful practice across one's career to safely and most efficiently practice in a given area. Utilizing a CBE philosophy throughout one's career should ensure high-quality and safe patient care to all - patient care that can adapt to the changing scope of physical therapist practice as well as the health care needs of society. The physical therapy profession is at a point at which we must step up the transition to a competency-based system of physical therapist education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberpzac018
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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