Global Health Competencies for Physiotherapist Education in the United States

Increasingly global health education is being incorporated into health professions’ curricula. Various disciplines have defined global health competencies (GHC) for their areas of professional practice. However, physiotherapist educators have not delineated GHC for physiotherapist education. This study’s purpose was to develop GHC for United States (US)-based physiotherapist education. We developed an online survey using 30 GHC from a nursing study and 4 GHC that we developed. We recruited physiotherapists who were clinicians and/or faculty employed in the US, or who had been employed as clinicians and/or faculty in the US within the past 5 years to complete the survey. We examined descriptive data for Likert responses and used content analysis for analysis of open-ended responses. One hundred eighty-eight participants completed the survey. A majority agreed or strongly agreed that 33 of the total 34 GHC were relevant to physiotherapist education. Four major categories emerged from open-ended responses: beyond entry level, greater relevance to physiotherapy, emphasis on US concerns, and value of understanding international issues and perspectives. Although most participants agreed with the GHC, open-ended responses indicated the need for revision of the GHC to make them more relevant to entry-level physiotherapist education. We plan to revise the GHC and then validate the modified GHC through a future Delphi study. Study limitations include the limited number of participants and that the lack of an operational definition of ‘global health’ may have created confusion.

The study’s results may inform physiotherapist educators inside and outside of the US as they contend with determining how to most effectively prepare physiotherapist students for competent practice in a globalized world.