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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy Training Program Near Vestavia Hills Alabama

Vestavia Hills Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Vestavia Hills AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Vestavia Hills Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, such as Vestavia Hills AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, 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 resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Vestavia Hills AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Vestavia Hills Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered 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 prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Vestavia Hills AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an essential component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in several 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 phased out and is no longer available in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Degrees Online

Vestavia Hills Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Vestavia Hills AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than similar on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Vestavia Hills AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you select the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact several Vestavia Hills AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college options. It might also be a good idea to contact 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 useful statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Vestavia Hills AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a course of study 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 therapist college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have relationships with Vestavia Hills AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to obtain practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Vestavia Hills health care community and assist with job placement after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Vestavia Hills AL home. Students who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT colleges offer some form of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College 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 especially important if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Vestavia Hills AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Vestavia Hills Online Physical Therapy Training

Choose the Right Vestavia Hills Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the best physical therapy school is an important initial decision you need to make to launch a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may want to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Vestavia Hills Alabama.


 

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