Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2022

Document Type

Dissertation (799 registration)

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Boyd Bradbury


leadership, health care, physical therapy, qualitative, phenomenology


The complex and rapidly changing environment of health care requires health care professionals with leadership knowledge and skills. Many health professional education programs have recognized the importance of developing the leadership abilities of students studying to be professionals in their field. There is emerging evidence of the need for leadership development for physical therapists, including a set of leadership competencies that has recently been identified by physical therapists. The perspective of Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students regarding leadership and the value of leadership for health care professionals is unknown.

This qualitative phenomenological study utilizing semi-structured interviews was conducted to explore how DPT students conceptualize leadership and how they value leadership for health care professionals. The participants included five second-year DPT students and five third-year DPT students at one physical therapist professional education program. The findings yielded four themes for how DPT students conceptualize leadership: 1) Connection, 2) Integrity, 3) Influence, and 4) Experience. Participants described past leadership experiences through athletics, work experience, clinical rotations, and by parental role models. Participants’ concepts of leadership including leaders being able to connect with others through communication and compassion, leaders demonstrating integrity through honesty and accountability, and leaders having influence over others by being a guide and a role model. The participants’ responses aligned with the conceptual framework of leadership identified in this study.

The findings for the research question of how DPT students value leadership for health care professionals revealed three themes: 1) Connection, 2) Integrity, and 3) Expertise. Participants all stated that leadership knowledge, skills, and abilities are valuable for health care professionals for various reasons. Connection described the importance of health care providers being able to connect with and share information with patients to set and achieve common goals. Integrity demonstrated participants’ views that health care professionals should lead through accountability and responsibility. Expertise revealed that DPT students believe that health care professionals should lead with confidence, knowledge, and patient advocacy efforts. The results aligned with studies on leadership in health care regarding communication and accountability, but did not include several other areas noted in recent literature, including health care quality and cost.



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