Quality Improvement Content in Physical Therapist Education: A Scoping Review

Tamara S. Struessel, Nicole M. Sleddens, Katherine J. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of this study was to systematically review the literature regarding teaching quality improvement (QI) in physical therapist education based on the Institute of Medicine's 6-element definition of QI. Educational activities in QI methods in physical therapist professional education curricula, their developmental stage, and their level of evaluation were described. Methods: Keywords related to physical therapist students and QI educational activities were used to search studies indexed in PubMed, CINAHL, and ERIC published from 2004 through November 2020. This search yielded 118 studies. After applying inclusion and exclusion criteria, 13 studies were retained for full-Text review, which was conducted independently by 2 reviewers. The University of Toronto framework was used to assess developmental stage, and Kirkpatrick's taxonomy was used to assess the evaluation level of 4 retained studies. Results: The scope of QI educational activities in the 4 retained studies was limited to 3 of the 6 elements of QI: identifying opportunities for improvement, designing and testing interventions, and identifying errors and hazards in care. None of the studies included educational activities to teach understanding and measuring quality of care. Three of the 4 studies spanned the first 2 stages of the University of Toronto framework (exposure and immersion); 1 study was limited to exposure. None of the studies assessed competence in QI methods. Evaluation of QI education was limited to Kirkpatrick levels 1 (reaction) or 2 (learning). None of the studies evaluated activities at level 3 (transfer of new behaviors) or level 4 (results). Conclusion: Education in QI methods in professional physical therapist curricula may be limited in scope due to constraints in physical therapist education and the strategic objective of the profession to differentiate itself from other professions. Impact: Entry-level physical therapists might not be educated to fully participate in interprofessional teams that use QI methods to continuously improve the quality of patient-centered care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberpzac012
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • Patient Safety
  • Physical Therapy Education
  • Quality Improvement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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