Multiple Sclerosis Education Track Improves Self-Rated Competencies in Physical Therapy Students
Objectives: This study evaluated the outcomes of the first 5 cohorts of students to complete MS STEP UP.
Methods: Students applied for selection to MS STEP UP in their first year of the DPT program at UNC. The 2-year educational track, conducted concurrently with the second and third year of the DPT curriculum, included didactic instruction, clinical experiences, and service activities. Scholars were also encouraged to tailor class assignments and capstone projects to focus on MS-related topics. Volunteer clinical experiences allowed the students to observe MS-specialized physical therapists and neurologists and other healthcare providers. Scholars regularly participated in community-based activities including National MS Society events, board meetings, fundraisers, and self-help groups. The primary outcome used to evaluate the educational track was the MS Competencies Rating Scale (MSCRS), which was completed by each scholar before they started MS STEP UP and at the end of the first and second years. Activities of the scholars were also recorded quarterly in an online database.
Results: Since 2008, 10 DPT students have completed the MS STEP UP program. Four of the first six scholars have obtained MSCS certification. MSCRS data showed significant increases in self-rated MS competencies across the two years. The number of competency items on which the scholars rated their knowledge as “above average” or “excellent” increased significantly (p<.001) from a mean (±SD) of 0.13±0.35 items (0%) at baseline to 23.3±3.8 items (53%) after the first year, and 41.0±3.1 items (93%) after the second year.
Conclusions: MS STEP UP improves the clinical skills and knowledge of DPT students, as demonstrated by self-rated competencies. Moreover, the program appears to adequately prepare graduates to become certified specialists in MS. Future research should evaluate the effects of specialized training for therapists and students on patient outcomes, and compare student competencies to students in the regular curriculum.