Physical therapists work every day with people suffering from everything from a bruised hip to combat trauma. As a result, physical therapy continuing education is critical in keeping up to date on the latest therapies.
Selecting a Specialty
As with many things today, the term PT encompasses a broad range of disciples. So, in looking at physical therapy continuing education, you really have to focus or one or two areas. You can take classes in athletic training, massage therapy, occupational therapy, special education, and then speech and language therapy. Under occupational, you can further specialize in helping people recover from severe trauma. This can include vehicular accidents and military injuries. There are also geriatric and pediatric specialties; the former helps the aged, and the latter deals with children.
Checking Your State's Requirements
Every state has varying degrees of requirements as to physical therapy continuing education. As a physical therapist, you'll be licensed by the state, and can check with their department of professional regulation to see what those rules are. In some cases, classes are required to be taken annually, others every two years; some classes can be taken online, and with others you have to appear in person. Also, the state's website can give you a list of approved continuing education providers.
The Four Forms of Physical Therapy Continuing Education
As of 2000, a bachelor's degree was declared to not be enough to practice in this field; a master's or doctorate is required, and there are four ways to earn either. With the master's degree, you can either get a direct entry or a transitional. The former is if you have a bachelor's degree in another subject and you want to switch to PT, and it generally lasts two years. The latter is if your bachelor's is in PT, and is often completed in a year. The doctorate is the same way – direct and transitional – and it applies in the same manner.
With physical therapy continuing education, it's hard to believe that some classes could be offered online – as it is a hands-on profession. However, there are classes related to the non-physical therapy aspects of the profession that you can take this way. You can learn about reimbursement policies, dealing with managed care (HMO's), professional ethics, and fraud and abuse. Then there are some physical courses that also do not require you to practice on a live patient. You can study the anatomy of various areas of the body, and learn about skin lesions and their treatment. Depending on the requirements of your state, these forms of physical therapy continuing education may be enough.
Check with the Association
The American Physical Therapy Association can be helpful in dealing with physical therapy continuing education. Their website – apta.org – has a plethora of information about the various educational programs available – both online and at colleges near you. They can also advise you as to dealing with state regulators to insure they accept the classes you take.