Award Date


Degree Type

Doctoral Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Committee Member

Jenny Kent

Second Committee Member

Daniel Young

Third Committee Member

Merrill Landers

Number of Pages



Introduction and Purpose: The University of Nevada, Las Vegas Doctor of Physical Therapy program (UNLVPT) encourages rural and underserved employment by requiring students to complete one clinical experience in either a rural or underserved setting. Students who participate in rural clinical experiences may be more likely to practice in rural settings. UNLVPT also assesses rural interest level during each student’s education. The purpose of this study was to determine if relationship exists between students’ pre- or post-clinical experience rural interest level and their practice location within the first two years after graduation. We hypothesized that an interest in rural practice during school would predict rural employment after graduation.

Literature Review: Approximately 18% of the United States population resides in rural areas. In the US, rates of physical therapists per 100,000 people are lower in rural vs urban areas, and Nevada has lower rates per 100,000 people than the national average. Nevada's therapist population has grown disproportionately in urban areas. Attempts to curb the shortage of rural physical therapists have included post-graduation indentured debt repayment programs and curricular components such as required rural clinical experiences.

Subjects: Seventy-eight recent DPT alumni were recruited via email. Thirty-nine participated in this study.

Methods: Subjects were sent an electronic survey to determine alumni practice location. In addition, Likert style questions asked subjects to indicate to what extent several factors affected their practice location decisions. These data were compared to existing UNLVPT program data related to each subject’s interest in rural practice while a DPT student. We used correlational statistics and chi-square analysis to determine if there was a relationship between variables such as: student sex, the type and length of rural or underserved clinical experiences, and student interest in rural practice with the dependent variable post-graduation practice location.

Results: There were no relationships between student sex, type or length of clinical experience, nor student pre- or post-interest levels toward alumni rural practice location. There was statistically significant moderate negative correlation between alumni perception of the extent of influence of cost of living (r = -.540, p

Discussion: We conclude that interest level in rural employment as a DPT student may not predict rural employment after graduation. While we were not able to determine causation from these correlations there may be some difference in attitudes towards these factors between alumni who chose to work in a rural setting and those who did not. We suggest that if UNLV DPT hopes to increase the number of rural physical therapists, they should continue to explore the directionality on other potential predictive factors in addition to interest level to better recruit, matriculate, and graduate physical therapists who are more likely to seek rural employment.


Rural conditions; Physical therapy; Student loans; Cost and standard of living; Education


Physical Therapy | Rural Sociology

File Format


File Size

1000 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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