How CAPP Courses Are Constructed

Posted By: Darla Bowen Cathcart, PhD Academy News, Career Development,

In this article, we will discuss how CAPP courses (CAPP-Pelvic: Certificate of Achievement in Pelvic PT, and CAPP-OB: Certificate of Achievement in Pregnancy and Postpartum PT) are constructed. The CAPP committee members have worked hard as volunteers who are both passionate about quality education and ensuring strong, evidence-based materials being spread in the world of women’s health.  The CAPP committee work involves a time-intensive collaborative, collegial, consensus process.  (Say that three times really fast:)  Thus, the CAPP products go very far in promoting and advancing our profession.

Having served as a creator of the CAPP courses, a CAPP committee chair, a course lab assistant and instructor, and most recently as Director of Education, I always appreciate the response of someone hearing the description of how the CAPP courses are put together.  “Wow, that’s an intense process!”  I agree!  It is a process that ensures the best, most up-to-date materials we can offer, with input from a variety of “experts” in the field.

How does this process happen?  

The starting point is a group of volunteers who are SoWH members.  There is both a CAPP-Pelvic and a CAPP-OB committee, comprised of 6 people.  The original members authored the courses; the subsequent members have been involved in updating the course materials.  The ability to apply for being a part of the committee is open to any Section member who can demonstrate significant experience or expertise within an area or sub-area that falls in the course content.  A “call” is made to the membership via eblast whenever new members are being recruited.  Members are selected through an interview process and blinded interview grids that are rated by the existing committee members.  Selection is based on individual experience/expertise, the ability to fully participate as a collegial member, and also on the current committee makeup.  What area of knowledge is currently lacking amongst the committee members – this area of knowledge becomes a priority in recruitment.

The course materials are broken into “modules.”  If you have ever been to an SoWH CAPP course, then you have seen these modules, which are essentially literature reviews, that make up a course manual.

In the Pelvic Health PT series, there are three courses: Levels 1, 2,and 3.

In the OB series, there are two courses:  Fundamentals andAdvanced.

Each year, one of the courses in each series goes through an intensive “update.”  This involves performing literature and resource reviews on the topics of each module to see what is new and what is outdated.  Additionally, feedback from course participants, lab assistants, and course instructors is gathered to address any areas of the course that may need further refining.

While one course is being intensively updated, the other courses in the series undergo what are called “critical edits” – meaning any information that is new in the literature is added in, but the course itself does not undergo significant changes.

Early in the update year, the individual modules to be worked on are assigned to the CAPP committee members.  Each member will work on updating the assigned modules; each member may have 3-5 modules depending on the course and that member’s expertise on various topics within the course.

After members have completed updates, they will send a “first draft” to an intra-committee reviewer.  Reviewers will read through the module and make any additional suggestions for updates or edits to the module.  Once the reviewer sends the marked-up first draft back to the committee member, that person will continue to work on the module per the reviewer suggestions.

The “Second Draft…”

Next a “second draft” is sent to the Committee Chair, who will compile the updated modules for a consensus meeting.

Every two years each of the CAPP committees participate in a “live retreat” (in off years, they perform intensive conference calls).  During this retreat (or call), the full committee reviews each individual module.  The committee comes to a consensus decision on everything to be included in the course.

I am very proud of this consensus decision-making process.  I feel it is a feature that makes the CAPP courses very solid – it allows us to confidently provide level 5 evidence in our courses for examination or intervention techniques that are less researched, thus offering the maximal amount of clinically-relevant material for participants.  Additionally, with six different members having a variety of experiential and expertise areas, the final “product” of these courses is an educational experience that has input from a wide array of people – thus there is no single person controls the content in ANY area of the course lecture or lab manuals or materials.  Furthermore, as new members come into the committee and seasoned members move off, even more new blood and fresh eyes become valuable tools for further enhancing and developing the courses.  These courses are NEVER finished!  They are always changing, growing, and being refined.

After the committee performs retreat discussion of the all the modules, the committee member assigned to a particular module will make any final changes as decided upon by the entire committee.  Once these changes are made, revisions to the accompanying PowerPoint presentations and test questions are made.

Finally, the test questions are developed using the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) Item-Writing Guide (  This guide is very appropriate for testing of the clinical practitioner.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about how the CAPP courses are constructed!

Darla Cathcart, PT, DPT, CLT, WCS is the Director of Education for SoWH. A new resident of Conway, AR, she is fulfilling her lifelong passion for teaching as an instructor in the PT Program at University of Central Arkansas. She is pursuing a PhD in neurobiology to help research & find solutions for women with chronic pelvic pain. She loves her 7-year-old twin boys, Basset hound and Jack Russel, craft beer, good chocolate and good ice cream.  She runs and lifts weights to balance out those last three.