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PT Ortho Residency a Boon to Boomers

July 2007


A boomer nation that is staying active even as it ages is among the motivations for a unique physical therapy residency program at St. Ambrose.

Credentialed in July 2006 by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), the one-year orthopedic residency program is the only one of its kind in Iowa for physical therapists, and is one of only 13 orthopedic PT residency programs in the country.

SAU's orthopedic residency program couldn't come at a better time. Now more than ever physical therapists are needed in this specialty area, particularly in Iowa, where there are more people over 65 years old than in any other Midwestern state. Physical therapists with expertise in orthopedics will be vital to serving this older population-and keeping healthcare costs down.

According to APTA, more than 40 states have signed legislation allowing patients to see a physical therapist without a referral from their family doctor. Such direct access means fewer office visits and faster care for the problem that brings a patient in.

Sandra Cassady, director of the doctor of physical therapy program at St. Ambrose, says that other factors increasing the demand for PTs with an emphasis in orthopedics include more people who are working past their retirement years, the general population's growing participation in recreational activities, and a longer lifespan.

"Many more people are now surviving strokes, heart attacks and surgical procedures, and they benefit from rehabilitation services," Cassady explains.

Through St. Ambrose's residency program and a one-of-a-kind collaboration with Rock Valley Physical Therapy that began in 2006, resident students such as Janelle Miglio '06 dpt gain additional insights and experience in orthopedic physical therapy working with patients under the supervision of a licensed PT. Two days a week, a certified PT coaches her while she's seeing patients at Rock Valley.

Kevin Farrell, director of the residency program, says residencies aren't required to become a licensed PT, but the knowledge and experience gained is immediately beneficial to the patient. Upon completion of the program, residents can seek board certification.

"It's an outstanding opportunity to work alongside someone with recognized expertise in the specialty area," Farrell says. Presently, SAU's residency program is limited to two students due to its time-intensive nature and space available at the clinic. "This one-on-one mentoring is key to the whole program."

A second resident, Emily Glynn '06 dpt, says that's what's different about going from a doctoral program out into the field. Without a residency, "you have to kind of figure some things out on your own," she says. With it, new PTs have greater patient handling and interaction skills and more readily recognize different patterns of problems with patients.
Bottom line, she says, "The residency makes us more efficient as physical therapists."

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