Will the occupational therapy Academic Leadership Council stand up to the accreditation function of its own organization?
American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT) recently published a paper entitled "Future of physical therapist education programs in higher education." This paper should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in the proliferation of some allied health programs, credential escalation, and the intersection of these issues with practice.
For starters, it is important to disambiguate ACAPT from CAPTE (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education). CAPTE grants accreditation to entry level programs for the physical therapy profession, and although 'independent' is also a part of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). ACAPT is a membership association of physical therapy educational programs and their educators. ACAPT is also an offshoot of the APTA. This complex relationship makes the ACAPT position statement rather interesting.
The ACAPT paper identifies a few key points:
1. There are more PT programs being developed and class sizes are increasing while reimbursements are decreasing
2. Actual PT employment is not likely to match BLS projections and continued expansion of programs is likely to be detrimental
3. Increased student debt has outpaced salary growth
4. There is a nationwide shortage of qualified PT faculty
5. There is increased competition for clinical education sites
And then the culminating statement, "In light of these issues, we urge higher education institutions to consider this changing landscape before adding new physical therapist education programs, expanding current class sizes, or increasing tuition."
Readers here will undoubtedly see the parallels between the statement in this paper and the arguments presented in opposition to the mandatory entry level doctorate for occupational therapy. There is also direct relation to information I have presented over the past year as it relates to the state of strain in clinical fieldwork sites (also exacerbated by COVID-19) - see HERE and HERE.
What is interesting for the occupational therapy community is that apparently our colleagues at APTA are more willing to consider internal voices that represent viewpoint diversity. At any time that occupational therapy leadership is presented with the topic of possibly discussing the problems of over-proliferation of sites, or the problems with escalating credential requirements - the field is told that it is not allowed to 'meddle' in the free market and restrict the trade of developing programs. Alternate perspectives on this matter have been brought up many times, with little impact. There has been a call for viewpoint diversity within the occupational therapy community for many years, and it has largely been ignored.
And yet here we have a similarly internally-conflicted APTA with its membership and educational constituencies at seeming odds with its accreditation function, and yet they feel free to write a paper expressing concern about the state of affairs.
The only way that the occupational therapy field has had to influence the system is from grassroots effort OUTSIDE of the membership association - via the OTD Mandate - Uncertain Future Facebook group and its affiliated efforts. The motion that passed the Representative Assembly to promote dual levels of entry would never have happened without that grassroots effort.
So what is different in APTA, that its academic members feel liberated enough to write such a position paper - and yet we don't see that in AOTA? Certainly the concerns are parallel, if not identical.
I encourage the Academic Leadership Council of the AOTA to take this issue up, and consider drafting a similar letter to the OT community.