How long should your DPT program be?

Recently, John Childs from EIM wrote an interesting piece about the current status of the 3 year DPT and its cost/effectiveness.  In the blog post (Are times a changin’ in DPT education?),  Childs references an article written in the New York Times about “The Drawn Out Medical Degree.” The NY Times article makes some interesting points in relation to the relative cost of medical school, the amount of time required, and the perceived benefit from such lengthy education.  The proposal is that medical school being shortened to 3 years (rather than 4) will save medical students large amounts of money, still provide complete education, and–among other things–decrease the drive for students to gravitate towards lucrative specialties (e.g. orthopaedics [side note: interesting blog post about orthopaedics and money]) to pay off six figure debt, and move them towards needed fields like internal medicine and geriatrics.

This sounds great to me.  Even more so, the application of these premises to the DPT sound good as well.  If we could decrease costs of PT school, perhaps we would have fewer PTs attempting to perform “sexy” treatments like TDN or Kinesiotaping or FMS or many other things that we tend to gravitate to because they are simple, produce immediate results, and are popular with patients (i.e. money makers).

Honestly, the more I read over Childs’ and the others statements on these issues…the more I agree.  We have far too many PT schools, with small student bodies, limited access to high quality educators (no remark on my own institution…my professors are all top quality, seriously), ROI for PT school education and base salary is poor, and on and on and on.

Certain things need to change, residencies should be a mandatory for PT students.  I feel that in my limited experience, I have heard from too many individuals something along the lines of “I didn’t want to spend all that time in PT school with residencies. I just want to get my doctorate and treat patients.”  This is the wrong reason for joining any healthcare profession. Required residencies could eliminate these people (ideally) and boost the quality of PTs in the field.

There is one thing about Dr. Childs proposal I have difficulty excepting: shortening the DPT to 2 years.  This, in my brain, does not compute.  We moved to 3yrs to qualify as a doctoral profession (as far as I understand it).  I don’t know of any doctoral program that finishes didactic work in 2yrs and is able to claim students are prepared for licensure.  Furthermore, I don’t see how it would be possible to condense the full DPT academic course load and material into only 2 years.  The analogy of a firehose is already used to describe the volume of reading and information that is passed along to us in this current 3 year setup.  This doesn’t even consider those who come from variable undergraduate experiences (some of my own classmates have degrees in foreign language, media arts and design, etc.), who might not have a very strong basis in biological sciences, physics and other necessary components for the DPT profession.

With this being said, there’s much to consider. I will leave it to you to digest.

-Spencer M.




One thought on “How long should your DPT program be?

  1. Pingback: A Year in Review | PTbraintrust

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