Inclusion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and Other Related Identities Content in Australian Physical Therapy Curricula: Perceived Barriers and Priorities for Inclusive Education

Megan H. Ross, Kerstin McPherson, Julie Walters, Lucy Chipchase

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Introduction.

Providing culturally responsive, patient-centered care is crucial for ensuring safe and positive health care experiences for individuals with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations. Doing so requires adequate training and knowledge of the health professionals involved in those health care experiences.

Review of Literature.

Individuals identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, and other related identities (LGBTQIA+) experience significant barriers to health and positive health care experiences. In physical therapy, research has identified that individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ experience discrimination, discomfort, and lack of practitioner knowledge about health needs. The aim of this study was to determine how, and to what extent, content related to LGBTQIA+ individuals is included in Australian physical therapy curricula as well as perceived barriers to inclusion.

Subjects.

Physical therapy program directors (PDs) as of January 2022 for all Australian universities that deliver physical therapy programs (n = 24).

Methods.

A Qualtrics survey was emailed to PDs to collect quantitative and qualitative data regarding the inclusion and mode of delivery of LGBTQIA+ content, as well as the perceived importance, and barriers to inclusion, of LGBTQIA+ curricula.

Results.

Twenty-four (100%) universities (PD or proxy) responded to the survey. More than 62% (15/24) of PDs reported that their programs included LGBTQIA+ content with 88% (21/24), indicating that LGBTQIA+ content is relevant to the physical therapy curriculum. Time devoted to LGBTQIA+ content ranged from 0 to 6 (median 2-4) hours across any year, delivered primarily in general or foundational courses (37%). Perceived lack of trained faculty (14/22; 64%) and time (13/22; 59%) were barriers to the integration of LGBTQIA+ specific content into the curriculum.Discussion.Our results indicate that the physical therapy curriculum may be contributing to ongoing negative experiences of individuals identifying as LGBTQIA+ with physical therapy encounters. Although most (87%) physical therapy program leaders in Australia believe that LGBTQIA+ specific content is relevant to the training of new graduates, content is included in only 62% of curricula. Perceived barriers to inclusion of LGBTQIA+ specific curriculum were a lack of time and appropriately trained faculty. Externally developed content is available to address limited expertise within programs, but faculty may require guidance on how to overcome perceived lack of time (ie, space in the curriculum).

Conclusion.

Most Australian physical therapy programs include LGBTQIA+ content to a limited extent in their curricula, indicating a lack of perceived importance relative to other topics. In this way, Australian universities are maintaining the pervasive heteronormativity of the physical therapy profession and are complicit in the ongoing health disparities between the LGBTQIA+ and heteronormative communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)284-293
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Therapy Education
Volume37
Issue number4
Early online date15 Sept 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Cultural competency
  • Curriculum
  • Health disparities
  • LGBTQ
  • Physical therapy

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