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Changes in physical therapist social responsibility and altruism during international pro bono experiences

Jean Weaver, Amanda Pye, Nikki McCoy, Joseph Rosi, Brandon Rosi


Purpose. Physical therapists have seven core values as professionals in the United States. The core values of social responsibility and altruism have been difficult to develop and integrate into clinical practice. Research suggests these core values have been developed in student physical therapists during international clinical education experiences. The purpose of this research study was to determine if physical therapists from Ohio, who had international clinical experiences in developing countries were impacted in their practice philosophies of improving health wellness when they returned to the United States. Additionally, researchers sought to answer the question: Did international clinical experiences in developing countries shape social responsibility and altruism of a physical therapist’s professional development? Methods. Seven randomly selected Ohio licensed physical therapists with international clinical experiences in developing countries agreed to participate and responded to 11 open-ended questions relating to their experience traveling abroad in underserved countries. Interviews were conducted over speaker-phone with the researchers recording and qualitatively coding responses for themes. Interviewing and subject selection ceased at data saturation. Results. Five reoccurring themes were determined: expressed observed poverty, unexpected learning experience, imparting physical therapist knowledge, appreciation, and frustration. Conclusion. The results of this study suggested physical therapists developed altruism and social responsibility, as well as compassion and caring core values during the provision of pro bono services in developing countries. Additionally, all participants expressed being changed in their professional practice because of the international clinical experience.


Physical therapy; Professionalism; Pro bono International experience


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