All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Diane Clark

Advisory Committee Members

Dennis Fell

Cecilia Graham

John Lowman

Patricia Patrician

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Doctor of Science in Physical Therapy (DScPT) School of Health Professions


Background: Previous studies point to inadequate knowledge of musculoskeletal medicine for both student and practicing physicians and physical therapists. Professions with practice regulations that allow direct access by the consumer to healthcare should be assessed to determine competence in managing musculoskeletal conditions. Objective: The objective of this study was to determine if there is a difference in knowledge of the management of musculoskeletal conditions in students enrolled in four professional programs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Methods: Students enrolled in the last semester of medical school (MD), adult nurse practitioner (NP), physical therapy (PT) and physician assistant (PA) programs were invited to participate in the study. Participants completed a test of competency in musculoskeletal medicine and a brief questionnaire. An analysis of variance was used to compare mean scores on the competency assessment across the groups and to compare mean scores in groups rated as "confident" or "not confident" in their ability to examine and treat musculoskeletal conditions. Results: The students in the PA program scored significantly higher on the assessment than the students in the NP program. There were no other significant differences between the groups. All program groups had a passing rate of less than 50% on the assessment. Students who rated themselves as "confident" scored significantly higher on the assessment than did the self-rated "not-confident" group. Limitations: Limited generalizability, low response rates for two groups (medical school and adult nurse practitioner), and self-selection bias are potential limitations of this study. Conclusions: This study corroborates previous findings for competency in musculoskeletal medicine using the tool designed by Freedman and Bernstein. Students enrolled in four professional programs at UAB failed to achieve a mean passing score of greater than 73% indicating deficiency in knowledge of musculoskeletal medicine as defined by Freedman and Bernstein. Investigation of the validity of this assessment tool for use with healthcare professions other than medicine and further analyses of professional program curricula are indicated.



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