I spent the last two days in a room full of about 200 physical therapy colleagues at the George Washington University. The participants were a mix of educators, researchers, direct care clinicians and managers/administrators. I attended the conference, “Preparing the Next Generation of Physical Therapists for Innovative Practice (Physical Therapy Leaders Networking to Transform Health Care)."
I attended the conference for several reasons. First I manage a large rehabilitation department that employs approximately 50 physical therapists and is growing still. I am interested in the future of physical therapy and in promoting best practices in PT at my organization. Second, I am interested in Health Policy and one of the organizers had given me some insight into the line up of speakers and topics and I was interested in the PT perspective on these issues. Lastly, I attended because of my role on the AOTA Board of Directors. I have contended that one important reason to move to a single point of entry at the doctoral level for Occupational Therapists in the US is to prepare our entry level therapists for the practice of 2026 and beyond. I think that means a different type of practice and will require different skills.
This conference was ALL about the future; every presenter spoke about the changes in our health system and in our populations, how physical therapy is adapting and more importantly how the discipline needs to continue to transform. There were a couple of key phrases and concepts I heard over and over. Among them were:
I was impressed with the level of energy and dialogue particularly from the direct care clinicians and private business owners who demonstrated great concern for the future of physical therapy practice and education. I heard a lot of ideas about how to transform clinical education and fieldwork and became aware of many new resources to help me in my role as a manager and volunteer occupational leader.
It was two days that left a clear impression about how well physical therapy is organizing for the future……