Abstract

Objective. The use of physical agent modalities is not considered an entry-level skill and requires postprofessional education, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association. The purpose of this survey was to determine how occupational therapy practitioners who use physical agent modalities are trained.

Method. Two hundred fifty occupational therapists were randomly selected from the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Physical Disabilities Special Interest Section. The practitioners were surveyed about their use of, education in, competency testing for, and opinions on eight physical agent modalities.

Result. Results were based on 100 responses (40% response rate). Of the eight modalities, the most commonly used were hot and cold packs, and the least were transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulators. The most common means of education was on-the-job training, and the least common was higher level accredited education. A majority (71) of respondents reported that no competency testing was being performed at their facilities. In the remaining facilities (29), the majority performed competency tests with no routine frequency, using no particular guidelines for testing and no formal methods for maintaining standards for physical agent modality use. Eighty-five respondents indicated they would be interested in attending continuing education programs on the use of physical agent modalities, and 88 believed that functional activities should follow the use of physical agent modalities within the same treatment session.

Conclusion. The occupational therapy profession may need specific educational and competency guidelines to assure the qualifications of therapists using physical agent modalities.

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