Senate passes bill for physical therapy program

Caitlin Carter

Soon, pre-physical therapy students at WKU may not have to leave the area to receive their doctorate.

Last week, Senate Bill 130, which would create a doctoral degree in the physical therapy program at WKU, was approved by the Senate, 34-2, during the Kentucky General Assembly, said Robbin Taylor, vice president for Public Affairs.

The bill will allow universities across the state of Kentucky to offer up to three advanced practice doctorate degree programs, Taylor said.


She said WKU is considering the doctor of physical therapy program, the educational leadership doctoral program and the doctor of nursing practice, among other programs.

Taylor said the next step in the legislative process is moving the bill through the House of Representatives within the next two weeks.

She said Kentucky university presidents are determined to get every member of the House in favor of the bill.

“We have firm commitments from many already,” Taylor said.

President Gary Ransdell said if passed, the program would have a huge impact on pre-physical therapy students at WKU since now only two universities in the state — the University of Kentucky and Bellarmine University — offer professional doctorate of physical therapy programs.

More than 260 students at WKU are pursuing the pre-physical therapy option along with their undergraduate degrees, according to WKU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Book.

“We would be able to accommodate many of those students,” Ransdell said.

Beginning fall 2012, WKU would enroll 30 students annually in the program, focusing study on rural and underserved areas of western Kentucky.

Ransdell said the physical therapy community is now requiring a doctorate degree for entry-level therapists, but there are current therapists who wish to earn a doctorate in the field.

“This will impact physical therapists currently residing in the central and western portions of Kentucky who want to get the new licensure credential,” Ransdell said.

Right now, physical therapists are in high demand, Ransdell said.

“Rehab clinics and hospitals across this region are unable to fill vacancies,” he said. “There’s a much greater demand than there is supply for physical therapists.

“It’s all about healthcare for Kentuckians.”