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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Palmer Alaska

Palmer Alaska physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Palmer AK 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 illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are considering to make certain they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the closest 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 talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Palmer Alaska DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Palmer AK private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Palmer AK health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Palmer Alaska physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Palmer AK area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by community or junior colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to finish and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program also must 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 seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing also.

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 offered in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Programs Online

Palmer Alaska woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online part of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Palmer AK home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning some of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Palmer AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll have to look into other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you select the school that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 enroll in an online college, it can also obtain 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. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can look into 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 organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Palmer AK physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your college selections. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Palmer AK area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you select provides both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alaska 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 therapist school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have partnerships with Palmer AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific manner to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Palmer health care community and help with job placement once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Palmer AK home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance office and see what kind of help is obtainable. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy program you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Palmer AK area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Palmer Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Right Palmer Physical Therapy School

Picking the ideal physical therapist college is an important initial decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to visit each of the schools to see their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Palmer Alaska.


 

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