Date of Award

11-9-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

School Name

College of Health Professions

Department

Education

Major Advisor

Dawn Hall-Bibb

Second Advisor

Grant Smith

Third Advisor

Patrick Englert

Fourth Advisor

Whitney Ensor

Abstract

The purpose of this quantitative study was to investigate the relationship between exposure to pelvic health content in physical therapy school curricula and Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students’ comfort levels discussing sexual health issues with future patients. As holistic, autonomous health care providers, physical therapists must be confident in addressing all aspects of health with patients, including sexual health. Lack of attention to patients’ sexual issues may result in aspects of health going unaddressed, leading to poor patient care. The research hypothesis was that increased exposure to pelvic health topics within entry level physical therapy education will improve students’ comfort levels discussing sexual issues with future patients. This study electronically surveyed a cluster sample of randomly selected physical therapy students within the United States. While no guidelines exist regarding how sexual health topics should be addressed within entry level education, the American Physical Therapy Association Section on Women’s Health has provided the most thorough and recent recommendations for physical therapy programs to implement pelvic health topics into curricula. Those recommendations were used to design an electronic survey assessing exposure to and comfort with pelvic health content within students’ physical therapy programs, titled the Pelvic Health Curricular Exposure Scale (PHCES). Participants also completed an adapted version of the Students’ Attitudes Towards Addressing Sexual Health (SA-SH) questionnaire. Inferential statistics were used to determine the correlation between exposure to pelvic health content in didactic and clinical coursework and students’ comfort levels. Results revealed a positive correlation between exposure to pelvic health topics in DPT curriculum and comfort discussing sexual health in future patients. There was also a positive correlation between participating in a pelvic health elective or clinical experience and comfort discussing sexual health in future patients. Based on these findings, DPT programs must make a dedicated effort to implement pelvic health into curriculum and provide students with pelvic health electives and clinical experiences. Future research may consider exploring the best way to integrate pelvic health topics into DPT curriculum using the PHCES as a starting point to assess students’ baseline level of informedness and comfort with pelvic health topics.

Available for download on Saturday, November 11, 2023

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