Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work

Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Lisa L. Dutton, PT, PhD


Political participation has been identified by the APTA as one way to engage in social responsibility. Among the traditional professions, including health care, political participation is encouraged as a professional duty to society through professional codes of ethics and educational preparation. Currently, no research exists on PT professionals’ attitudes regarding political participation. The purpose of this study was to explore physical therapists’ perceptions and experiences surrounding political participation.

A phenomenological qualitative approach was employed to gather data from 4 semi-structured focus groups regarding physical therapists’ perceptions surrounding political participation. Participants included 22 physical therapists and 1 physical therapist assistant from the acute, outpatient, and inpatient rehabilitation practice settings. Audio data from each focus group was transcribed, returned to subjects for verification, and independently coded and themed by the researchers. Methods such as purposive sampling, member checks, peer debriefings and triangulation were used to support the dependability and trustworthiness of the study.

Multiple themes emerged within four categories. The “individual” category included one’s views about political participation, specifically as a professional role. The "behaviors and outcomes” category included the actions individuals engage in when participating politically and the achievements gained through said participation. The “motivators and barriers” category described the influences on the behaviors, either encouraging or discouraging political participation. The aforementioned categories exist within the larger context of the final category, the "physical therapy profession/APTA and practice setting.”

Results of this study indicate that PTs perceptions of political participation emerge from a combination of personal and experiential elements. PTs recognized the importance of political activity, but saw it as more a role of the APTA rather than the individual. Participants had difficulty articulating the achievements of the APTA in the political arena and expressed frustration with the communication of political advocacy information. For political participation among PTs to increase, exemplary behaviors should be modeled in the school and work places, motivating factors should be increased and barriers decreased. Furthermore, there must be a direct and explicit call for physical therapists to live up to the standards charged by their profession.