Tobacco cessation counseling training in US entry-level physical therapist education curricula: prevalence, content, and associated factors

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Background The US Public Health Service (USPHS) recommends tobacco cessation counseling (TCC) training for all health care professionals. Within physical therapist practice, smoking can have adverse effects on treatment outcomes in all body systems. In addition, people with physical disabilities have a higher smoking prevalence than the general population, creating a strong need for tobacco cessation among physical therapy clientele. Therefore, TCC training is an important component of entry-level physical therapist education. Objective The aims of this study were: (1) to determine need for TCC training within entry-level physical therapist education and (2) to identify potential barriers to implementation of USPHS guidelines in the academic environment. Design A descriptive cross-sectional survey was conducted. Methods Directors or academic coordinators of clinical education from entry-level physical therapist programs (N=204) were surveyed using an online instrument designed specifically for this study. Data regarding program and faculty characteristics, tobacco-related training content, and faculty opinions toward TCC in both physical therapist practice and education were analyzed descriptively. Results The response rate was 71%. A majority (60%) of programs indicated inclusion of tobacco-related training, most commonly 1 to 2 hours in duration, and of these programs, 40% trained students in the implementation of USPHS clinical guidelines for TCC. Limitations Data analyses were constrained by limited or missing data in some areas. A single faculty member completed the survey for each program. Conclusions There is a need for TCC training in entry-level physical therapist education. Inclusion may be facilitated by addressing perceived barriers toward TCC as a component of physical therapist practice and promoting the relevance of TCC as it relates to intended outcomes of physical therapy interventions.