Doctor of physical therapy students achieve perfect pass rate, above-average scores on licensing exams

The 2021 Doctor of Physical Therapy Cohort.

Twenty-five students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) program at Radford University Carilion (RUC) in Roanoke achieved a 100% pass rate on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) licensure examinations, with an average score of 722 out of 800. The national pass rate for 2021 was 94.1%, with a mean score of 683.

The licensing exams are offered quarterly, and most students wait until after graduation to take them in July. However, the DPT students from RUC took their exams early on April 28, just before graduation in May.

“I believe they feel fully prepared to take the exam early because of the excellent education they have received from the faculty,” said Shala Cunningham, Ph.D., assistant professor in the D.P.T. program. “This allows them to enter the workforce as licensed professionals.”

According to the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy, the exams are designed to assess students’ competence after graduation from an accredited program to help ensure that only those individuals who have the requisite knowledge of physical therapy are licensed in the physical therapy field. The exams also help regulatory authorities evaluate candidates and provide standards that are comparable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Cunningham said that the D.P.T. program offers students many resources to help them develop the skills they need to pass the exam, including a board preparation course and practice exams for students as they progress through their studies. Student advisors also assist with developing personalized study plans, and the students complete clinical research under the guidance of faculty mentors, presenting their findings at national and international conferences.  

“We have a core faculty with amazing credentials,” Cunningham said. “They provide our students with not only support in the classrooms and labs, but practical, real-world experience that can only be gained from professionals who have worked in the field.”

All licensed core faculty in the D.P.T. program are board-certified clinical specialists with the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. Only about 10% of physical therapists in the U.S. hold this designation.  

In addition, the faculty includes practicing specialists in kinesiology/applied neuromechanics and clinical exercise physiology, all of which are essential for physical therapy education.

Cunningham also gives credit to the students themselves, who persevered during a difficult time in their academic careers.

“Without the students’ dedication and hard work, the program wouldn’t be as successful as it is,” Cunningham said. “This cohort met and overcame the challenges associated with the pandemic in the classroom and the clinic. They adapted to the constantly changing healthcare environment while maintaining the utmost professionalism. I cannot say enough about how much I respect each and every student that has navigated the past year of uncertainty.”  

“We are incredibly proud of our students and their accomplishment,” said Edward Swanson, Ph.D., interim department chair and program director of the D.P.T. program, “and the faculty does a great job in preparing the students for not only taking their licensing exams but for caring for our communities for years to come.”

Jun 3, 2021
Mark Lambert