Objective: Research in regions outside of the Caribbean shows that high school and college students’ knowledge of physical therapy is lacking. There is no data reported to date for students in the Caribbean region. This study sought to evaluate Trinidadian secondary school students’ knowledge of physical therapy, identify sources of knowledge and examine the relationship between knowledge and selected factors.
Methods: A non-experimental cross-sectional analysis of relationships was conducted with 1427 students attending schools that were randomly selected from rural and urban locations in Trinidad. A questionnaire which required the students to identify selected tasks performed by physical therapists, grade the skill level associated with each task and identify sources of information was utilized.
Results: A total of 1353 questionnaires were returned, of which 1236 were eligible for analysis. The mean number of correct responses regarding knowledge of tasks conducted by a physical therapist was 6.47 ± 2.05 out of a total of 11. More than 50% of the respondents had incorrect responses for questions related to the skill level associated with each task. Seniors and students who were interested in health careers had significantly higher scores for knowledge of tasks performed by physical therapists (6.72 ± 1.94; 6.7 ± 1.81) than juniors and those who were interested in non-health careers (6.4 ± 2.07; 6.52 ± 1.99). The two most common sources of information from all categories of respondents were television (74.8%) followed by internet (54.6%).
Conclusion: Students attending secondary schools in Trinidad are not well informed about physical therapy and strategies must be developed to address this.