AU, private company partner to develop physical therapy doctorate

Augustana faculty approved on Feb. 6 a partnership with Evidence in Motion (EIM), a provider of post-professional physical therapy educational programs, to develop and offer campus a hybrid Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program.

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) still have to review the partnership. Before the university provides the DPT degree, the HLC must give it permission.

During the early stages of the program, CAPTE will hopefully accredit the program. At this point, the faculty has only approved that the college should pursue this partnership with EIM in order to develop a DPT program.

“If we get in the queue here soon, summer of 2022 would be when we could launch,” said Jerry Jorgensen, associate vice president for graduate and continuing education. This is because CAPTE only accepts so many programs each year.

EIM has developed similar programs at other universities, such as Baylor, Tufts, Hanover and South College, according to Colin Irvine, vice president for academic affairs and dean. Irvine said the provider is also working on a program in Hawaii.

Assistant professor of athletic training James Day said the faculty has wanted to expand the healthcare offerings at Augustana for years.

“With healthcare degrees continuing to increase, naturally the progression of what we would have to offer to provide students the requirements they need to do these careers increase as well,” Day said.

EIM approached Augustana in August 2018.

“I think what’s really exciting with a program like this is that it plays to one of the many strengths that we have in healthcare sciences, so it’s a perfect fit for that,” said Jorgensen.

Day said this program will be important to making the offerings at Augustana more consistent with the healthcare focus of Sioux Falls.

Juniors Tiegen Lindner and Jill Schott, co-leaders of the Pre-Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Chiropractic club, an organization which gets PT, OT and chiropractic students ready for conversations about graduate school, said they think it’s good to get freshmen started thinking about requirements needed for grad schools “early in the process.”

“I think the program would definitely fill a need,” Schott said. “There’s enough people on campus that would eventually go into the program”

The two-year program may be a classroom-online hybrid and may include intensive eight-hour clinical sessions that last anywhere from 10-17 days and are meant to resemble working as a physical therapist, Irvine said. These clinicals include shoulder-to-shoulder teaching.

In December 2018, Irvine and Jorgensen visited the program at Baylor University to gather information.

“There were stations of 12-15 students and you could feel the academic intensity in the room as these students were going through their exams and it was really an exciting space,” Irvine said.

“It’s still the same six semesters, but they go over the summer term,” said Day. “From a retention standpoint, it’s better. Plus, it gets them out in the field earlier and allows those summer opportunities.”

Day said it’s important to focus on the partnership with EIM being just that—a partnership.

“It really is two organizations coming alongside and they have a lot of neat things that they can help us with and obviously, we’re helping them reach their overall goals with promoting and developing a stronger physical therapy workforce.” Day said. “Those lessons that we learn with the DPT program don’t have to stay there and won’t stay there. They’ll be trickled down all throughout.”

“We were really excited that it’s coming to be a part of Augustana,” Lindner said. “Now that the freshmen have the potential to be in that program, that’s exciting for them.”

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