Nature of clinical practice for specialists in orthopaedic physical therapy

Mary K. Milidonis, Joseph J. Godges, Gail M. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Clinical specialization is part of physical therapy's continued development as a profession. Clinical specialization in physical therapy has evolved with little discussion of how specialization is related to the development of professional expertise. The purposes of this paper were to compare the identified clinical competencies in orthopaedic physical therapy to selected clinical reasoning models and expertise development models in physical therapy and interpret these comparisons in light of current theoretical work in expertise. Descriptive content analysis using results from the 1993 Practice Analysis for Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Certified Specialists was done to link attributes identified in 3 selected theoretical models of clinical decision making and practice. Survey materials were linked to theories by use of a binary index (yes/no) of whether theoretical concepts were present or absent in the survey results. The attributes that characterize an expert physical therapy practitioner involve clinical reasoning, and the ability to teach patients. The skills of a master clinician were based not just on the application of knowledge, but also on thinking and reasoning that occurs with experience. We propose that knowledge is gained through the clinician's thinking and reasoning during practice which results in a transformation or change in the clinician's knowledge base. Describing the clinical specialization process in the context of expert theory provides a strong foundation for the specialization process in physical therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-247
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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