The Waldron College of Health and Human Services

Demand for Physical Therapists Drives New Doctoral Program

physical therapy students

The Doctor of Physical Therapy program enrolled its first students in 2011.

Let’s face it. We’re all getting older.

And as we age, many of us become more susceptible to such chronic and debilitating conditions as arthritis and cardiovascular disease, as well as heart attack and stroke.

These conditions are among a number of factors behind the growing demand for physical therapists, a profession in which the American Physical Therapy Association projects growth of
30 percent from 2008 to 2018. In the United States, nearly 50,000 new physical therapists will be needed, according to those projections.

Helping to meet that demand is Radford University’s Waldron College of Health and Human Services, which in 2011 enrolled the first 14 students in its new Doctor of Physical
Therapy (D.P.T.) program.

“No single program in the entire nation will be able to independently meet the increased needs,” Waldron Dean Raymond Linville said. “However, as more educational programs become available, especially those in underrepresented regions, the disparity should decrease over the next 10 years.” 

Advances in rehabilitative technologies—battlefield triage during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan is a prime example—and “an evolving culture in which individuals engage in more at-risk activities than in the past,” Linville said, also are increasing the demand for physical therapists.

Radford University is focused on meeting those needs.

To do so, it has partnered with some of the region’s largest health care providers, including Medical Facilities of America, Carilion Clinic, Genesis Rehab Inc. and Richfield Retirement

These and other health care agencies in the area will provide Radford University students with rich clinical experiences that will best prepare them for work as physical therapists.

“My goal from the first has been to recruit students from our area and for them to remain here following graduation, and with the help of our community partners, the D.P.T. faculty and President Kyle, we are doing exactly that,” Linville said.

To house Radford’s new D.P.T. program, construction began this year on a new state-of the-art facility at Carilion Roanoke Community Hospital. The 7,900-square-foot space will include computer and research labs, offices, classrooms and locker rooms.

Edward C. Swanson, the program’s director, said the new department will also provide the community and local physical therapists an opportunity to carry out research and receive specialized patient assessment in the areas of motion analysis and balance.