Partner with HBCUs to Strengthen the PT Workforce  

Tim Guiden is the Regional Director for First Settlement Physical Therapy (FSPT). He is based in Charleston, West Virginia. In a new guest blog post, he explains how his participation on the APTQI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee has influenced his work:

Tim Guiden, Regional Director for First Settlement Physical Therapy

In the state of West Virginia, where I currently practice, I have noticed a gap in representation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in the field of physical therapy compared to other states where I have lived or worked. The APQI Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee has given me – and our team at First Settlement Physical Therapy (FSPT) – more tools and ideas to help close this gap.

Sharing ideas between leaders in the field and hearing about other leading physical therapy companies’ DEI efforts has inspired me to do more to help diversify the physical therapy workforce in the communities we serve. Thinking about the great history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in our country, as well as the the footprint FSPT has in communities across Ohio and West Virginia, I wondered how I could bring those two worlds together to achieve this common goal.

As with most physical therapy companies, FSPT has close ties to our local physical therapy programs, so one of the first things I did was reach out local HBCUs and local physical therapy programs. Specifically, my team and I suggested the idea of fostering arrangements at physical therapy programs to reserve a couple of seats each year for applicants from HBCU undergraduate programs. Many physical therapy programs already hold spots for students from programs they have relationships with so we were able to designate space for students from HBCUs, which will go a long way in cultivating a new generation of Black PT leaders. I am optimistic these efforts will make a positive impact in our communities.

We’re also thinking beyond the immediate areas we serve by exploring partnerships with HBCUs across the United States, so I connected with faculty in charge of clinical placements from HBCUs to offer slots for physical therapy students with FSPT. This went particularly well with Winston Salem State University (WSSU). Reaching out to them to secure a relationship, share the values of FSPT, and hear about the values of WSSU led to the realization that many of our core values aligned. I look forward to expanding the relationships we’ve established between FSPT and HBCUs, WSSU in particular.  

I urge readers to encourage your physical therapy companies to reach out to local and national HBCUs and offer support to attract and retain a more diverse range of students to pursue a career in physical therapy.