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Blog>Guides>Guide to Physical Therapy Continuing Education in 2021

Guide to Physical Therapy Continuing Education in 2021

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Overview

  • The physical therapy field constantly adapts to new technologies and medical research
  • Continuing education (CE) helps physical therapists stay on top of developments in the field
  • CE can also help expand career options for PT professionals

Introduction

As a physical therapist, you help people improve mobility, strength, flexibility, and coordination. Your patients rely on you for preventive care, rehabilitation, help recovering from injury or illness, and management of chronic conditions.

To get your multifaceted job done, you rely on a diversity of techniques and tools — which are constantly changing in line with health care innovation. Robotics, virtual reality (VR), and mobile apps are some of the cutting-edge technology now being used in physical therapy. Health care professionals are also finding new ways to use old tools. For example, ultrasound — traditionally used for diagnostic purposes — is now being used to treat soft tissue injuries.

This is just a sampling of some of the changes taking place in the field of physical therapy. So, how are you supposed to stay on top of it all? Physical therapy continuing education (CE) will give you the knowledge and skills you need to provide the best possible quality of patient care.

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CE refers to additional coursework and hands-on training you may complete when you already have your physical therapy license. It helps you maintain, improve, and gain new skills. CE doesn’t confer an official degree on you — like a bachelor’s or master’s — but it’s still a great way to enhance your resume.

You can get continuing education credits (CECs) by attending in-person classes, online courses, live webinars, and conference-based training sessions. CEC are also called continuing education units (CEUs). Some states require physical therapists to meet a minimum of continuing education requirements throughout their careers to maintain their licensure.

This article explains how you benefit from continuing education as a physical therapist and highlights some common types of CEU courses you might consider taking.

Why Is Continuing Education Important in Physical Therapy?

The most important goal of continuing education for any clinician is to maintain a consistent, high quality of patient care. CE coursework can serve as a “refresher” for basic knowledge that physical therapists need to do their jobs safely and effectively. CE can also cover new research, technologies, and techniques in the physical therapy field. Expanding your knowledge will give you confidence knowing that you’re offering patients the best care possible.

Is Physical Therapy Continuing Education Mandatory?

Physical therapy continuing education is mandatory in many states. Depending on where you live, you may need to complete a set amount of CEUs within a certain time frame to maintain your licensure. The precise requirements vary between states and also depend on the type of license you have (for instance, physical therapist versus physical therapist’s assistant, PTA).

In Nevada, physical therapists and physical therapist assistants must complete 15 hours of continuing competency (another word for continuing education) within the year before they plan to apply for license renewal. Since Nevada requires these professionals to renew their licenses annually, that means 15 hours every year.

The State of Nevada Physical Therapy Examiners’ Board checks that these requirements have been met when a professional applies for license renewal. They also confirm that the continuing education courses completed are eligible. Approved courses cover topics like clinical imaging, postoperative management of orthopedic surgeries, chronic heart failure, and rehabilitation.

This is just one example from one state. In New York, physical therapists need to complete 36 hours of CEUs every three years, while in Virginia, they need to complete 30 hours of CEUs every two years. The relevant state board determines what coursework is eligible to count toward those hours.

Check with your state’s board of physical therapy to determine the requirements in your state. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) provides a list of state boards and contact details on their website.

Types of Physical Therapy Continuing Education

Physical therapy continuing education comes in various forms, including in-person and online teaching. In some states, participation in webinars and conferences is also considered valid toward CECs. Before you sign up for a CE course, though, check with your state board of physical therapy to make sure it qualifies as an eligible CE.

For example, the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy provides a list of accepted CE providers. The state accepts CEU courses provided by:

They also accept training provided by government agencies, accredited colleges and universities, and nationally accredited health care organizations.

Again, this is just one state-specific example. It’s important that you consult your own state physical therapy board to find out what coursework is eligible for CECs in your state. However, the above list can give you an idea of the range of possibilities you have to get the continuing education you need. There are many options available!

The topics covered in physical therapy continuing education are likewise diverse. Possible areas of study include:

  • Neurology in orthopedics
  • VR augmented therapy
  • Electrotherapy
  • Postoperative care for hip and knee surgeries
  • Resistance exercises with bands
  • Fall prevention
  • Pain management
  • Dance medicine
  • Weight loss
  • Geriatric physical therapy
  • Pediatric physical therapy
  • Physical therapy for athletic training
  • Joint dysfunction
  • Mobility impairments
  • Chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart failure, and pulmonary disease

This isn’t an exhaustive list and covers only some of the continuing education topics that physical therapists may deal with. New courses are always being developed in line with the evolution of physical therapy.

APTA Physical Therapy Continuing Education

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is a nationally trusted source of continuing education for physical therapists. They provide high-quality education from experienced professionals. APTA courses are accepted by most state physical therapy boards. You can get a list of states and which ones accept APTA coursework via the APTA website.

You can become an APTA member and gain access to more than 35 courses for free, some of which provide CEUs. Topics covered range from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and telehealth to managing a physical therapy practice throughout a pandemic. As you can see, the physical therapy continuing education courses are updated to reflect current real-world situations, giving you relevant and timely professional development resources.

Career Benefits of Physical Therapy Continuing Education

The ultimate goal of physical therapy continuing education is to provide your patients with the best care. By staying up-to-date on cutting-edge developments in the field, you can give them access to the latest innovations. However, CE also benefits you as a physical therapy professional. With continuing education, you can:

  • Learn about new specialties in physical therapy, such as PT for athletes or pediatric PT.
  • Gain new credentials for your resume, opening new career opportunities.
  • Improve your earning potential by gaining skills that allow you to qualify for higher-paying jobs.
  • Demonstrate to employers, patients, and colleagues how committed you are to excellence in physical therapy through your constant efforts toward betterment.

All of this can add up to a more rewarding career, emotionally and financially.

How to Include Physical Therapy Continuing Education on Your Resume

Showcasing your physical therapy continuing education on your resume can support your future job search success. Create a separate section for CE underneath the section where you list your primary education degrees. Include the course title, provider, and CEUs. If you’ve completed extensive CE, you may want to only include courses most relevant to your field and specialization instead of listing them all.

Discover Leading Physical Therapy Jobs in Your Area on Joblist

Physical therapy continuing education can enhance your career, creating new opportunities and allowing you to discover new avenues of care you may not have explored before. When you’re looking for your new physical therapy job, turn to Joblist.

You can use the platform to find exciting new opportunities based on details like job title and location. You can also get more resources to help you boost your career using our blog. Take a look today!

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