If you are an athletic trainer, you may have heard of athletic training doctorate programs, and you may have heard that they can boost your career. But what exactly are DAT programs and what do you learn through them? At the University of Idaho we house the original and most established DAT program in the United States. Let’s look over why we created the DAT, and what it offers athletic training professionals.
Why is the DAT program important?
Before the creation of the doctor of athletic training program, there were few options for athletic trainers to continue their education with doctoral programs. Students could attend a PhD or EDD program, but those programs focused on helping students become researchers or educators, not stronger clinicians. Additionally, in order to attend these programs students were required to either return to school full-time (which meant quitting their job) or chip away at it part-time, which could take many years.
Our DAT is different. An overarching focus on improving patient care provides the conduit preparing athletic trainers for clinical practice, academia, or research. And the majority of our students are able to complete it in two years while maintaining their current job.
What can you expect to get out of the University of Idaho DAT program?
The focus on clinical practice propagates several outcomes for our students.
Advanced Clinical Practitioners
What makes an advanced clinical practitioner? For one, a focus on manual therapy. There are a wide range of manual therapy techniques, some using the practitioners’ hands, others using specifically designed instruments. Manual therapy can be used to reduce pain, increase range of motion, decrease swelling or inflammation, and facilitate movement, among others. These skills can be difficult to learn without hands-on experience with a professional showing exactly what to feel for and how much force to exert. Manual therapy is one of the most sought-after skills in athletic trainers, and something we focus heavily on in the DAT. Students take courses in the following treatment techniques, among many other paradigms:
- Mulligan Concept®
- MyoKinesthetic System™
- Positional Release Therapy
- Primal Reflex Release Technique™
- Total Motion Release®
Another mark of an advanced clinical practitioner is being well-versed in evidence-based practice. While evidence-based practice (or EBP) has become a buzzword in healthcare, many struggle with how it translates into clinical practice. Here at the University of Idaho, EBP is utilized to create practice-based evidence (PBE) where students can assess the clinical meaningfulness of their patient care. Ultimately, understanding the clinical meaningfulness of your practice provides a bridge to improved patient care and characteristics of Advanced Clinical Practitioners.
Academic scholars and clinical scholars
While UI DAT students and graduates develop, create, and publish meaningful research (i.e., what we commonly call Academic Scholars), they don’t always see the difference between research and patient care. Rather, they prefer to be called Clinical Scholars who see their practice and research as the same. This fresh lens of applied research connects the practical and authentic side of patient care to both clinicians and academic scholars.
More than 40% of our graduates are employed in academic environments. While the DAT positions them to be strong clinicians, they also have great competence in the theory of patient care and are well-positioned to take on an educators role.
Our program has a strong emphasis on the mind-body-spirit approach to patient care. Our students find that once they become better at taking care of themselves, they commonly find a renewed enjoyment in their lives, as well as their careers. This is especially meaningful in their patient-centered practice and philosophy.
How is the University of Idaho DAT program delivered?
While there are other universities that offer 100% online DAT degrees, the University of Idaho is a little bit different. Every summer our DAT students come on-campus for 4 weeks of intensive in-person coursework. Why? We believe that some skills are best learned in-person. During the summers we focus on manual therapy and evidence-based practice. During the Fall and Spring semesters didactic coursework is delivered via synchronous and asynchronous distance learning while students work in their residency location.
Personalized residency experience
A major strength of our program is the design of the individualized residency experience. Students identify a clinical practice setting or specialty area, which is often located at their site employment, to work in during their DAT residency (like the medical residencies model). Students also select an attending clinician (i.e., a clinical mentor) for the residency site. Residencies will vary for each student according to individual interests. All residences must be approved by the DAT faculty prior to the start of training.
A key benefit of this approach is that students don’t have to quit their jobs to attend. Instead, their job (patient care) is an integral part of the curriculum. This allows students to maintain their paychecks and keep costs minimal while completing their degree.
All students conduct original research in their chosen area of clinical practice. Patient care data is collected during each student’s residency, which serves as a foundation for much of the student’s research during the program. This integrated translational research helps students become scholarly practitioners who use evidence-based practice to prevent and treat musculoskeletal diseases and disorders.
Another reason many students choose the University of Idaho is value. At $22,434 a year, our program provides high value with low cost, especially as students can maintain their current income while attending. We also offer several TA positions, through with students work in our on-campus ISMaRT clinic and serve as preceptors for our MSAT students while earning their DAT degree.
Our DAT program welcomes in a new cohort every July, and the program runs for 2 years, or six semesters (Summer, Fall, Spring). Students join us on-campus for both summer semesters, while completing their Fall and Spring semesters online.
Want to know more?
If you’re an athletic trainer who is considering a DAT degree and wondering what it can do for you, let us know! We’d love to talk with you and help you decide if our program is a good fit for you; even if the answer is “no”! Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to one of our faculty members to set up a call.