Educating Physical Therapist Students in Tobacco Cessation Counseling: Feasibility and Preliminary Outcomes

Document Type


Publication Date



Background—Smoking is the leading preventable cause of chronic disease and premature morbidity. People with physical disabilities experience elevated smoking prevalence when compared with their non-disabled peers. The physical therapy profession is dedicated to meeting needs of people with physical disabilities, yet most physical therapists (PT) do not typically provide tobacco cessation interventions. Similar deficits exist among other health professions, creating a demand for improved services to address smoking-related health burdens. Within other health professions, insufficient tobacco cessation counseling (TCC) education has been linked to a lack of interventions and may account for similar deficits in physical therapy practice. Study Purpose—Goals were to assess feasibility, implementation, and results of a tailored TCC educational program for entry-level physical therapist (PT) students. Subjects—Two cohorts of entry-level physical therapist (PT) students (n = 12 and n = 17) Methods—Educational objectives were established based on prior review of the literature, a survey of national PT education programs, and clinical guidelines for TCC established by the United States Public Health Service (USPHS). Based on these objectives, the team designed a 3- hour workshop involving didactic content and problem-based skills practice. A pre- and post-test survey was used to measure 6 dimensions: knowledge, perceived barriers, perceived facilitators, self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and self-rated skill in TCC. Within each cohort, changes in score were compared using a paired t test. The ability to apply clinical guidelines for TCC was assessed using case scenarios and structured observation. These outcomes were selected based on the Theory of Reasoned Action, which states that future behavior is determined by intention to act. Intention to act is a product of knowledge, a positive balance between perceived barriers and facilitators, strong self-efficacy, favorable outcome expectations, and necessary skills. Student satisfaction with training was assessed through anonymous written feedback. Feasibility was based on cost analysis, including material resources, as well as faculty time and effort. Results—Following participation, both cohorts improved in knowledge, perceived facilitators, outcome expectations, and self-rated skill. Cohort 2 also showed an increase in self-efficacy (P < . 01). Structured observation revealed competencies in application of clinical guidelines for casebased scenarios. Mean student satisfaction ratings for the educational experience were 5/5, and cost-estimate for delivery of the 3-hour educational intervention was approximately $32 per student. Conclusions—This research study demonstrated feasibility and impact of an evidence-based curricular model designed to increase likelihood of TCC by future PTs by enhancing factors known to promote TCC behaviors. The program was well-received by students, and objectives were achieved through efficient use of faculty time and resources. Subsequent research should examine the effects of training on the provision of TCC within clinical settings, as well as the impact of TCC on smoking quit rates for patients who have received this intervention as a component of their physical therapy plan of care