Wingate’s most recent class of doctor of physical therapy grads posted an impressive 97.5 percent pass rate on the National Physical Therapy Exam, with 39 of the 40 members passing the licensure test on the first try.
The pass rate, announced by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy, bested the national average by 12 percentage points and was nearly 13 percentage points higher than the program’s 2021 rate, bringing a wide smile to the face of Dr. Karen Friel, the program’s director.
Friel believes that integrating clinical education early so that students get firsthand experience to solidify the concepts they’re taught in the classroom is one key to the rising pass rate. She said her department embarked on a four-phase curricular change beginning in 2020, with 2022 grads experiencing the first phase.
“The primary change for that cohort was the implementation of our ICE program,” Friel says. ICE stands for integrated clinical education, which at Wingate has taken the form of a pro bono clinic called Wingate Rehabilitation and Performance, or WRAP for short.
The clinic is open every Monday afternoon during the semester to referred patients, most of whom are uninsured or underinsured. It’s where first- and second-year students, under the supervision of their professors, do assessments and take patients through their range of treatments. Started in June of 2021, in its first six months the clinic logged 215 patient visits and provided services valued at more than $24,000.
“Our students treat a multitude of different patients,” Friel says. “Although we were unable to initiate the WRAP clinic as early as intended in the curriculum because of Covid, they still experienced increased patient interaction compared to previous cohorts.”
She says the clinic enhances students’ patient-interaction skills and their ability to put into action what they learn in the classroom. It also exposes them to a wider variety of patients than they would see during formal clinical rotations.
The class of 2022 also benefited from having classes realigned so that the material they were studying could be integrated into what they were experiencing in the clinic.
“We have a renewed focus on active learning so students can immediately apply what they learn,” Friel says. “All of these factors combined, we believe, helped to contribute to the improvements in our NPTE pass rate.”
It’s been a stellar year for physical therapy at Wingate. One of 10 accredited physical therapy schools in North Carolina, Wingate’s DPT program earned its 10-year accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) last spring with no outstanding citations. Graduation from a CAPTE-accredited program is required before a physical therapist candidate can sit for the NPTE.
Learn more about studying physical therapy at Wingate at wingate.edu.