Legislation that will allow physical therapy programs in the CSU system to offer a doctor of physical therapy has passed the state Assembly and is headed to the state Senate for consideration.
Assembly Bill 2382 passed the state Assembly on a vote of 75-1 and is intended to provide an exception to California law, which currently forbids CSU schools from offering doctoral degrees in any field of study.
“Absent my bill, many students would be forced to go out of state for their education and many Californians would be forced to bring in people from out-of-state to perform critical jobs,” said Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley).
The CSUN physical therapy department states that to be licensed as a physical therapist in the United States a person must graduate from an accredited physical therapy program, which is determined by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
Blumenfield said new national standards now require physical therapist to have a doctorate in physical therapy replacing the current master’s degree requirements.
For physical therapy programs to maintain accreditation they must offer a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.
Dr. Sheryl Low, associate professor and department chair of physical therapy at CSUN said she has been involved with Assembly Bill 2382 since its formation.
“This is a professional degree educating entry level physical therapy clinicians according to a nationwide standard,” Low said.
The new accreditation standards are the result of the American Physical Therapy Association’s goal for Vision 2020, which states that by the year 2020 physical therapy will be provided by physical therapists that are doctors of physical therapy, Low said.
There are four accredited CSU physical therapy programs that offer a master’s degree in physical therapy they include Northridge, Long Beach, Fresno and Sacramento. These four CSU physical therapy programs are the only master’s programs in the nation, with 98 percent of the nations physical therapy programs already offering a doctor of physical therapy Low said.
California’s “Master Plan” for higher education has prevented these CSU programs from making the transition to a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Low said.
“The four programs in California along with Puerto Rico are the last programs to convert from the masters of physical therapy to the doctor of physical therapy as the entry level degree,” Low said, “Since the mission of the CSU system is to educate professionals, we strongly believe that the entry level DPT is in keeping with the Master Plan and the mission of the CSU system.
Assembly bill 2382 sates that existing California law is the Master Plan for higher education which requires CSU to offer undergraduate and graduate instruction through the master’s degree in the liberal arts and sciences and professional education, including teacher education.
Blumenfield said Assembly Bill 2382 would carve out an exception in the law to allow the CSU system to grant doctorate degrees for physical therapy only.
“This is a jobs bill for California generally and the San Fernando Valley specifically,’ Blumenfield said. “Physical therapy is one of the top three jobs in demand today. We must keep these good paying, professional jobs here in the state and in the Valley. The best way to do that is to make sure students can receive their training in California schools.”
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects a 30 percent increase in the need for physical therapists and in California the four CSU physical therapy programs provide 38 percent of the current physical therapy workforce. If Assembly Bill 2382 is not passed through legislation these CSU programs will likely close down, Blumenfiled said.
“The Physical Therapy program at CSUN has been in existence since 1968 and has graduated over 1200 physical therapist,” said Low, who graduated from the CSUN program in 1986. “Most of our graduates stay locally and are loyal alumni, who give back to the university by taking our students under supervision for internships. We have over 350 clinics and hospitals that take our students for their internships in southern California.”
Assembly Bill 2382 will result in no new costs to the state, however, legislation needs to be passed by 2013 in order for CSU campuses to continue taking admissions for the academic year 2013-2014, Blumenfield said.
“The Physical Therapy program at CSUN has a fabulous reputation and needs to continue to provide physical therapists for the local workforce of California,” Low said.