Physical Therapy Education Program Faculty Challenges, Concerns, and Priorities during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Looking Back and Moving Forward

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Introduction. Faculty in U.S. physical therapy education programs made a rapid, reactive curricular modifications in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of this study was to analyze the challenges and concerns of faculty in New York (NY) and New Jersey (NJ) during the pandemic, and their priorities for being adaptable, well-resourced programs moving forward. Review of Literature. The COVID-19 pandemic was a major program disruption for many physical therapy education programs. Historically, health profession programs making curricular transitions in response to unplanned disruptions realize benefits, but also challenges, limitations, and resource needs. Subjects. One hundred thirty-seven faculty across the 47 physical therapy education programs in NY and NJ participated in this study. Methods. A team of NY and NJ physical therapy education program directors and directors of clinical education generated an internet-based survey for analyzing the challenges and concerns NY and NJ faculty experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic in online teaching, personal challenges, academic issues, and campus activities. A mixed-methods approach was used to analyze the data from closed-end and open-ended questions. Statistical analysis was carried out on faculty demographics and ratings of challenges and concerns, and inductive thematic analysis of faculty responses to the open-ended questions. Results. Major faculty challenges were lack of contact, increased workload, and learning online technology. Major concerns were decreased quantity of hands-on laboratories, difficulty assessing student hands-on skills, delays in clinical education experiences, and student and faculty safety during on-campus activities. Six themes were identified: online education challenges, student and faculty safety, faculty personal needs, quality of student outcomes, communication, and administrative/institutional support. Discussion and Conclusion. An appreciation of faculty challenges and concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic and priorities for moving forward are important for programs making curricular transformations hybrid education to be better prepared for program disruptions.

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Journal of Physical Therapy Education

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