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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Helena Alabama

Helena Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Helena AL is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are thinking about to ensure they will deliver a superior education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Helena Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, including Helena AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Helena AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Helena Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Helena AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to finish and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an intregal component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in a number of 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 available in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Programs Online

Helena Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Helena AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you probably have come to decision concerning a few of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Helena AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you need to make sure that you choose the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact several Helena AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your program selections. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Helena AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps excellent. It also verifies that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in provides both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are interested in have partnerships with Helena AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Helena medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they choose will have to be within travelling distance of their Helena AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist school you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Helena AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Helena Physical Therapy Majors

Choose the Right Helena Physical Therapist School

Selecting the best physical therapy program is a necessary first decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that many variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to each of the campuses to see their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Helena Alabama.


 

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