In May 2007, Bond University’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine will introduce Australia’s first entry-level Doctor of Physiotherapy degree.
The two year program has been developed in response to the critical shortage of qualified practitioners identified by the Australian Physiotherapy Association and various State and Commonwealth health authorities.
“Internationally, a doctoral-level degree is becoming the preferred entry qualification for physiotherapists,” said Bond’s Professor of Physiotherapy, Dr Elizabeth Gass. “In the USA, it is now stipulated as the entry-level qualification; Canada will follow suit in 2010; and Australia is more than likely to follow this trend.”
In designing the new program for Bond’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Dr Gass and leading Sports Physiotherapist Assistant Professor Michael Pahoff quickly discovered why this is the case.
“In our extensive consultations with practicing physiotherapists, they told us that the industry desperately needs ‘work ready’ graduates whose theoretical knowledge is matched by extensive clinical experience,” said Dr Gass.
“The demands of the workplace are such that qualified professionals simply do not have the time for hand-holding. They need graduate physiotherapists who have the confidence, initiative, time management and communication skills to hit the ground running and work autonomously from day one.
“At the same time, we were also very well aware of the industry-wide problem of finding adequate clinical places for the current crop of physiotherapy students.”
As a result of these consultations, the postgraduate program Elizabeth Gass and Michael Pahoff ultimately developed for Bond is very clinically focused, incorporating 30 weeks of clinical placements spaced throughout the course and an additional 12-week clinical internship prior to graduation.
The course also adopts a holistic problem-based learning approach, adapted from the highly successful model developed by Canada’s McMaster University.
Finally, by limiting the intake to 20 students and working extensively with their network of industry colleagues, Bond was able to guarantee high quality clinical places for all students and ensure a one-on-one personalised approach to the academic learning process.
“Once we put the industry’s training ‘wish list’ together with the Faculty’s leadership, advocacy and evidence-based practice requirements, we had a six semester, or three-year program which offered much more than the standard Masters level physio degree.”
Whilst the program is still six months away, enrolment applications are already showing strong demand.
“Specifically, we are looking for applicants who achieved above a credit, or a minimum grade of 60%, in a biological sciences based degree that has a strong exercise science focus,” said Dr Gass.
“We have also stipulated a number of pre-requisite subjects, such as anatomy, biomechanics and physiology, and will be offering bridging courses in the January semester for suitable applicants who have not previously completed these units.”
From January 2007, Bond will also be introducing an undergraduate Bachelor of Exercise Science and Bachelor of Sports Science which may ultimately provide a direct pathway into the Doctor of Physiotherapy, enabling students to qualify as a physiotherapist in just four years of study.