Crises as the Crucible for Change in Physical Therapist Education

Terry Nordstrom, Gail M. Jensen, Peter Altenburger, Mary Blackinton, Susan Deusinger, Laurita Hack, Rupal M. Patel, Barbara Tschoepe, Lisa Vanhoose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This Perspective issues a challenge to physical therapists to reorient physical therapist education in ways that directly address the crises of COVID-19 and systemic racism. We advocate that professional education obligates us to embrace the role of trusteeship that demands working to meet society's needs by producing graduates who accept their social and moral responsibilities as agents and advocates who act to improve health and health care. To achieve this, we must adopt a curriculum philosophy of social reconstruction and think more deeply about the why and how of learning. Currently, health professions education places strong emphasis on habits of head (cognitive knowledge) and hand (clinical skills) and less focus on habits of heart (professional formation). We believe that habits of heart are the essential foundations of the humanistic practice needed to address health inequities, find the moral courage to change the status quo, and address imbalances of power, privilege, and access. A social reconstruction orientation in physical therapist education not only places habits of heart at the center of curricula, but it also requires intentional planning to create pathways into the profession for individuals from underrepresented groups. Adopting social reconstructionism begins with a faculty paradigm shift emphasizing the learning sciences, facilitating learning, metacognition, and development of a lifelong master adaptive learner. Achieving this vision depends not only on our ability to meet the physical therapy needs of persons with COVID-19 and its sequalae but also on our collective courage to address injustice and systemic racism. It is imperative that the physical therapy community find the moral courage to act quickly and boldly to transform DPT education in ways that enable graduates to address the social determinants of health and their systemic and structural causes that result in health disparities. To succeed in this transformation, we are inspired and strengthened by the example set by Geneva R. Johnson, who has never wavered in recognizing the power of physical therapy to meet the needs of society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberpzac055
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


Dive into the research topics of 'Crises as the Crucible for Change in Physical Therapist Education'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this