Superior Multiple Sclerosis Competencies in Physical Therapy Students Who Participate in Optional 2-Year Specialty Education Track
Objectives: To examine the outcomes of a specialized MS training and education program for physical therapy students (MS STEP UP) on self-rated competencies compared to students who did not participate in MS STEP UP.
Methods: MS STEP UP is a 2-year educational scholarship track conducted concurrently with the 2nd and 3rd year of the DPT curriculum. Two scholars are selected each year through a competitive application process. The curriculum includes didactic instruction, 8 weeks full-time in MS-focused clinical practicum, MS journal club, and supplemental shadowing experiences with MS-specialized physical therapists, neurologists, and other healthcare providers. Scholars also participate in service activities including National MS Society events, board meetings, fundraisers, and self-help groups. The primary outcome used to evaluate the educational program was the MS Competencies Rating Scale (MSCRS), which was completed by each scholar before starting MS STEP UP and at the end of the first and second years. Students in the regular DPT curriculum were also asked to complete the MSCRS at the same time points; data are currently available from these students for the first two time points only.
Results: Fourteen DPT students have completed MS STEP UP. The number of competency items (max. 44) on which the scholars rated their knowledge as “above average” or “excellent” increased significantly each year (p<.001) from a mean (±SD) of 0.64±1.6 items (0%) at baseline to 26.6±7.1 items (60%) after the first year, and 41.4±2.5 items (94%) after the second year. The number of items rated “above average” or “excellent” after the first year was significantly greater among the MS STEP UP scholars (60% of items) than the students in the regular curriculum (17% of items, p<.001).
Conclusions: MS STEP UP improves the clinical skills and knowledge of DPT students, as demonstrated by self-rated competencies, more than students in the regular DPT curriculum. Whether this increase in self-rated competency translates to more efficient clinical decision making is yet to be determined.