How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Helena Alabama
Receiving a physical therapy degree near Helena AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to ensure they will deliver a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered besides cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What Does a Physical Therapist Do?
Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including Helena AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Helena AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degree Options
There are three physical therapist degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Helena AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often provided by community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically part of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a practicing licensed 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 3 years to complete, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Programs Online
While not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Helena AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
By now you probably have made a decision concerning several of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Helena AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you choose the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited? Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously mentioned, 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 program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for 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 clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your school options. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After 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 Helena AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you select furnishes both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have partnerships with Helena AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Helena health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Helena AL home. Those who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry 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 perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of help is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist program you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Helena AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Helena Physical Therapist School
Picking the right physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You may want to visit each of the schools to see their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Helena Alabama.