PHYSICAL THERAPY POST-GRADUATION CONTINUING COMPETENCY

Before we dive into Physical Therapy Post-Graduation Continuing Competency , lets discuss the basic entry-level/transitional programs. Professional (entry-level) and Post-Professional (transitional) physical therapist education programs in the United States currently offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree to all new students who enroll. The length of professional DPT programs is typically 3 years, and the curriculum that is offered is prescribed by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). CAPTE is an accrediting agency that is nationally recognized by the US Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CAPTE grants specialized accreditation status to qualified entry-level education programs for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. The length of professional DPT programs is typically 3 years, and consists of around 40 individual classes plus internships, depending on the educational model that the individual school follows. Primary content areas in the curriculum may include, but are not limited to, biology/anatomy, cellular histology, physiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, neuroscience, pharmacology, pathology, behavioral sciences, communication, ethics/values, management sciences, finance, sociology, clinical reasoning, evidence-based practice, cardiovascular and pulmonary, endocrine and metabolic, and musculoskeletal. CAPTE currently lists the Number of Accredited Physical Therapy Programs in the US at: 236, with 31,380 Students Enrolled for 2016-17. Now we move on to Post-Graduation Physical Therapy Continuing Competency.


After graduation, the opportunities for a Physical Therapist to further his education become quite varied, and and have different levels of regulation. Physical Therapists have the opportunity to become Board-certified Clinical Specialists through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). Specialization is the process by which a physical therapist builds on a broad base of professional education and practice to develop a greater depth of knowledge and skills related to a particular area of practice. Specialty certification is voluntary, and Physical Therapists can become board-certified specialists in the following areas: Cardiovascular and Pulmonary, Clinical Electrophysiology, Geriatrics, Neurology, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Sports Physical Therapy, and Women’s Health. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) has certified more than 20,000 individuals who have demonstrated advanced clinical knowledge and skills in physical therapy specialty areas.

Two avenues that are associated with significant Post-Graduate Physical Therapy Continuing Competency costs, are Clinical Residency and Clinical Fellowships. Residencies and Fellowships receive accreditation through The American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE). The ABPTRFE is a 7-member body appointed by APTA’s Board of Directors. http://cefortherapy.com/credentials-and-acronyms/
A Clinical Residency is a planned program of post-professional clinical and didactic education for physical therapists that is designed to significantly advance a physical therapist resident’s preparation as a provider of patient care services in a defined area of clinical practice. It combines opportunities for ongoing clinical supervision and mentoring with a theoretical basis for advanced practice and scientific inquiry. Residency programs are offered by traditional University settings, Academic Institutions, and even at Private Clinics. Some residencies are structured to provide the participant with advanced knowledge in a specialty area, that will lead up to the therapist taking a Specialty to become a board-certified clinical specialist through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). Applicants to a residency program are typically new graduates from their entry-level physical therapy degree. The ABPTRFE directory lists 240 residency programs offered within the united States
A Clinical Fellowship is a planned program of post-professional clinical and didactic education for a physical therapist who demonstrates clinical expertise in an area of clinical practice related to the practice focus of the fellowship. A fellowship program is designed to provide greater depth within a sub-specialty area (beyond specialty) than that which is covered in a residency program. Therefore new graduates are not eligible for admission to a fellowship program. Applicants of a clinical fellowship program must possess one or more of the following qualifications: 1) specialist certification, 2) completion of a residency in a specialty area, or 3) demonstrable clinical skills within a particular specialty area. Fellowship programs in physical therapy may be clinical programs that advance a physical therapists knowledge and skills in patient/client management within an area of sub-specialty, or nonclinical focusing on advancing a physical therapist’s career outside of their clinical duties. A fellowship program must be completed within a minimum of 1,000 hours and in no fewer than six (6) months and no more than 36 months. The ABPTRFE directory lists 48 Fellowship programs offered within the United States.

Another opportunity that a graduate Physical Therapist can pursue that is again associated with significant Physical Therapy Continuing Competency costs is to pursue post-professional doctoral (ie, PhD, ScD) graduate educational and research programs that are available for physical therapists. The degrees offered are housed in institutions that either have physical therapist degree programs or are associated with a physical therapist degree program. The APTA Directory of Postprofessional PhD and ScD/DSc Programs presently has 51 programs listed. These programs are not endorsed by APTA or accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), but of course do receive accreditation from their individual regional university/collegiate accreditation entities that have been approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Beyond these previously listed post professional educational opportunities, we now enter the world of Continuing Education/Continuing Competence, which can be voluntary or required for maintenance of licensure . The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy Jurisdiction Licensure Reference Guide reports that there are 40 state jurisdictions that require CEUs/CCUs for renewal of PT license and 36 that require CEUs/CCUs for renewal of PTA license. CE for Therapy has compiled a comprehensive database of 100’s of CE vendors that offer literally 1000’s of CE opportunities, techniques, methodologies, certifications, specializations and topics, and our main mission is to provide a centralized resource for all physical therapists/physical therapy assistants to identify relevant, up to date and cutting edge continuing education opportunities that are available to them. The regulation and/or certification of  CEU/CCU activities is not very standardized across U.S. jurisdictions, and usually the Education Provider will list whatever approval they have obtained( if any) on their website or brochure. We have found a very useful resource for determining Physical Therapy continuing competency requirements for individual states on the Continuingeducation.com website, link to page is http://www.continuingeducation.com/physical-therapy/state-ce-requirements/. Several state APTA chapters have their own approval processes, and some states have reciprocity with other states. The most centralized and standardized certification process that CE for Therapy is familiar with is the ProCert system, that is offered by The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. The ProCert system awards whole-number Continuing Competence Units (CCUs) values that reflect compliance with 14 Standards for Continuing Competence Activities that the FSBPT has developed. The list of ProCert accepting jurisdictions now consists of the following 30 jurisdictions: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. We will do our best to identify CE providers in our CE for Therapy Directory who have received ProCert Approval for their Physical Therapy Continuing Competency offerings.

Physical Therapy Continuing Education

Randy J Case, PT, DPT, GCS