Mercy Physical Therapy Faculty Publish Study on Lessons Learned During the Pandemic

Nanette Hyland photo

Dr. Nannette Hyland, Mercy College associate professor and program director of physical therapy (PT), has co-authored a paper documenting the challenges faced by PT program faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic. The article, “Physical Therapy Education Program Faculty Challenges, Concerns, and Priorities During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Looking Back and Moving Forward,” appears in the June issue of The Journal of Physical Therapy Education. Joining her as co-authors were faculty researchers from PT programs at five area colleges.

“Whatever your field, during the pandemic everyone experienced extremely high levels of stress and burnout, both of which have been well documented,” said Hyland, pointing out that the data from the study demonstrated that overall faculty concerns during the pandemic were parallel to student concerns detailed in a 2021 article published by Hyland and another team of colleagues.

In the article published in June, the authors analyzed the challenges that faculty in New York and New Jersey experienced during the pandemic, and how the health crisis influenced their priorities in leading adaptable, well-resourced programs. The authors used surveys to capture quantitative and qualitative data on PT faculty experiences ranging from the shift to hybrid education models and delayed clinical rotations to more personal challenges, such as family or personal illness, increased workload, or communication difficulties within and between institutions.

The study demonstrates the need to “pre-emptively develop strategic plans” to prepare educators for future disruptions. The authors concluded that, “The important lessons learned from the COVID-19 disruption are important for not only preparing for the next disruptive event but also for strengthening the infrastructure of physical therapy education now, to incorporate the best of the changes we made in reacting to the pandemic and establishing a strong foundation to keep our educational programs contemporary and relevant.”

Hyland noted, “The first study provided us with a blueprint for getting through a crisis and allowed us to elaborate on it for the study that followed. The data collected by PT faculty throughout the pandemic helped shape that blueprint. At Mercy, we’ve taken steps to use what faculty learned from the crisis, reduced it to its essentials, and created a more streamlined approach to teaching that’s equally effective, whether in person or virtual. That’s an important step forward in PT education.”