Objective. This study described occupational therapy practitioners’ perceptions about the content and method of training or education necessary for gaining theoretical and technical competence in the use of nine physical agent modalities (PAMs).
Method. A survey was developed and sent to 543 members of the Physical Disabilities Special Interest Section of the American Occupational Therapy Association who had identified their primary area of practice as hand therapy. One hundred and fifty-one completed surveys (28% response rate) were returned.
Results. The respondents indicated that theoretical and technical expertise necessary for competent use of PAMs varied according to the type of modality being considered Continuing education courses were identified as the best method for gaining theoretical and technical competence for the use of deep thermal agents, such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation agents, whereas entry-level professional education and on-the-job training were identified as most appropriate for superficial thermal agents, such as paraffin bath and hot and cold packs.
Conclusion. The results suggest that considerations regarding the type and amount of education necessary for gaining theoretical and technical competence in the use of PAMs depend on the type of modality being addressed. These differences should be considered in the future development of competency objectives for the use of PAMs.