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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Training Program Near Eufaula Alabama

Eufaula Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Eufaula AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are thinking about to make sure they will deliver a superior education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Eufaula Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, such as Eufaula AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Eufaula AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Eufaula Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Eufaula AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually offered by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the total commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Eufaula Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Eufaula AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you probably have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Eufaula AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you need to make sure that you select the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with a few Eufaula AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your program selections. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Eufaula AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are assessing have partnerships with Eufaula AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to receive hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Eufaula healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Eufaula AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of help is obtainable. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Eufaula AL area, check that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Eufaula Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Best Eufaula Physical Therapy School

Picking the ideal physical therapist program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that a number of factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different campuses to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Eufaula Alabama.


 

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