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New physical therapy program equips students for careers

UConn is introducing a new combined bachelor's and master's degree in physical therapy. The University has reconfigured its baccalaureate level program into a pre-physical therapy curriculum, and added a master of science in physical therapy degree. The new program has been approved by the Board of Governors for Higher Education.

The reconfiguration of the program is in response to national trends in practice and related changes in the criteria for professional accreditation. Physical therapy graduates are often required not only to provide patient care but also to be diagnosticians, supervisors, educators and managers of the health care process.

"This program makes the University a good choice for someone right out of high school who is interested in physical therapy," says Pamela Roberts, associate professor of allied health.

A major reason for implementing this new program is that there is an increasing expectation that physical therapists will be more independent in many work settings, as opposed to working directly under doctors' supervision, says Scott Hasson, head of the physical therapy department. He says that instead of working in hospitals, physical therapists are increasingly going into private practice working in home health care, and are therefore much more independent. Many states have direct access, says Hasson, where a prescription from a doctor is not needed for treatment by a physical therapist. Direct access to physical therapists allows for early involvement, which can be more efficient and less costly than traditional therapy.

Although Connecticut does not have direct access, graduates of UConn's physical therapy program go all over the country and all over the world, says Hasson.

Time constraints on teaching the amount of material necessary for a student to work in physical therapy within the limits of a four-year B.S. program were another factor in revising the physical therapy program. "Our B.S. degree was requiring more credits, and really requiring master's level work," Roberts says.

Daniel Smolin