There are several reasons to continue your training and education once you’ve become a licensed professional. First and foremost among these is that the methods and nature of treatments change as the science changes. Second, is that as you have to retake your licensing exams every two years, by law, and if you’re not keeping up to date on changes within the field then you’re not going to get recertified.
And the easiest way to keep up with the changes to the practice, legal ramifications, and other concerns of the physical therapy field? Continuing physical therapist education.
Continuing education is fairly common in medical and technological fields, so there’s no stigma attached with continuing to educate yourself as the nature and methodology of your work changes. And you don’t have to go too far afield to find programs catering to your needs either. In fact, given how many programs are available, the problem may be one of too much choice, not too little.
The first step to finding the program that’s right for you is to use the APTA (American Physical Therapist Association) ’s resources. They maintain an online database of information pertinent to the profession. You’ll need to figure out your specific needs before you go digging through the APTA’s files, but if you base your decision on the following criteria you should have an easy time of finding what you need:
- A program in your area of specialization
- Courses or programs that expand on, or further your knowledge of areas in which you work
- The maximum number of participants per course year
- The qualifications of the faculty conducting the program
- Attendant costs, including tuition fees and additional materials costs
It is not always possible to garner all this information up front, but what you really need is a program that contains up to date material, appropriate and wide ranging bibliographic material that will help you continue these studies on your own, and timely information concerning new developments in all aspects of physical therapy. Testimonials can be useful when seeking out this information, though you’ll want to verify the veracity of this information. Nominally, anything posted on the APTA’s website should be reliable, but it never hurts to double check.
There is one other influencing factor you should consider when choosing continuing education programs. There are three instructional levels to continuing education courses, as classified by the APTA:
Each of these has a different standing, and will cover different material. If you’ve been practicing in the field a long time there’s little reason to take a basic course, whereas if you are just starting out and are due for your first recertification basic level courses may be exactly what’s called for.
Ultimately, you’ll need to decide for yourself what courses are best suited to your needs. Use the resources available to you, and find the most reputable and cost effective courses available. The APTA is a great starting point, but use whatever resources work for you in order to get the most out of your continuing physical therapist education.