Physical therapy is a vital part of America’s healthcare sector. Because of this, physical therapists and physical therapy assistants are finding themselves in greatly increased demand.
By becoming a physical therapy assistant in Oklahoma, an individual can enter a field that is both professionally and personally rewarding.
Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant
Physical therapy assistants in Oklahoma must be licensed by the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision. Even those physical therapist assistants who are currently licensed in another state must obtain a state license before they can practice in Oklahoma. In order to obtain licensure, the candidate must complete the following steps:
- Successfully complete an accredited physical therapy assistant program.
- Take and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for physical therapy assistants.
- Pass an extended background check.
- Individuals who have been licensed in another state, District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico may apply to obtain licensure by endorsement.
The Physical Therapist Assistant Program
Physical therapy assistant programs are usually offered by community colleges and vocational schools.
In most cases, completing a physical therapy assistant program takes approximately two years for a full-time student.
Upon graduation, the student receives an associate’s degree.
The physical therapy assistant program covers all aspects of the duties of the physical therapy assistant. Among the main subjects that will be studied are the following:
- Human anatomy and physiology.
- Proper physical therapy techniques for the patient.
- Recognizing and identifying patient needs.
- Effective medical reporting techniques.
- The specific requirements for safely providing geriatric and pediatric physical therapy.
In most cases, the program will have a combination of classroom and clinical study. Additionally, some programs allow their students to work with actual patients while under the supervision of medical professionals.
For those students who cannot attend the program on a regular schedule, many schools offer part-time study options. This can be especially useful for students who are currently working or who have other obligations.
While many schools will allow some classes to be taken online, most physical therapy assistant programs will require their students to attend some courses in person in order to obtain hands on experience.
Generally, Oklahoma will only accept degrees from schools that have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). The CAPTE ensures that all accredited programs adhere to the highest educational standards and provide an up to date education in the field of physical therapy.
A student can verify that his or her program is in good standing by contacting the CAPTE or his program’s school administration. A student should never enter a program that is not currently accredited by the CAPTE.
Students who have obtained their degree from a foreign institution must submit evidence that their program is equivalent to a CAPTE accredited program. This process may take some time, so any student intending on practicing in Oklahoma should submit this information as soon as possible.
After obtaining an associate’s degree, the student must take and successfully complete the NPTE for physical therapy assistants. This test is a comprehensive exam that evaluates the student’s academic and practical skills in the field of physical therapy.
Oklahoma only permits a student to take the NPTE twice. Should the student fail to pass the test twice, then he or she must contact the Board in order to determine what other actions must be taken in order to permit the student to retake the test for a third time.
For that reason, it is very important that candidates only take the NPTE when they are confident that they are ready to pass the examination.
Licensure by Endorsement
For individuals who are currently licensed in another state, Oklahoma may permit licensure by endorsement. This requires that the candidate’s current state have requirements for licensure that are substantially equal to Oklahoma’s.
It is important that anyone planning to move to Oklahoma submit their information to the Board as early as possible in order to avoid unneeded delays in the endorsement process.
The State Background Check
Oklahoma requires a comprehensive background check of all applicants for licensure. Some criminal convictions may require that the Board further examine the candidate or may in fact make the candidate ineligible for state licensure. Any candidate who believes that their background check may become an issue should immediately contact the Board in order to determine if there is any threat to their ability to be licensed in Oklahoma.
Becoming a physical therapy assistant is an excellent choice in today’s economy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the number of jobs in this field will increase by 46 percent between 2010 and 2020. When combined with job vacancies due to retirement, this ensures that the field will continue enjoy robust and sustained growth. Finally, the average salary for this field is extremely competitive when compared to other professions with similar educational requirements, making a job as a physical therapist assistant an ideal choice for individuals who are interested in a career in healthcare.