By Nick Stern, Staff Reporter
CNM is offering for the first time a Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) program of study for students interested in becoming Physical Therapy Assistants according to the current myCNM course catalog.
The 2013 to2014 CNM catalog describes PTA as an Associate of Applied Science degree program that gives students the knowledge and expertise to attain and maintain a career as a Physical Therapy Assistant.
The program requires six terms of courses with proficiency in English 2, Math 2, Reading 2 and Biology, which can all be completed by placement exam, scores, or course work. The programs description can be found in the current 2013-2014 CNM Catalog under Programs of Study.
Associate Dean of Health, Wellness and Public Safety, John Blewett said, “It is a long process to start a brand new program of this size at the college because they don’t want to launch something like this unless it is really something that will be a benefit to the students in the community.”
The PTA program has not been offered before and has been in the works for several years beginning with input received from the community that the program would be beneficial to students in the community. A needs assessment survey in which CNM sends a questionnaire to local hospitals, clinics, rehabs and any business’ which employ physical therapy assistants-was done in the local community, Blewett said.
“The needs assessment is meant to get a sense of whether a program would be valuable to companies and if there is student interest. It was clear that there would be no trouble filling the seats,” Blewett said.
Following the needs assessment, the idea had to go through the dean’s council who looked at the information based on the assessment and from there the new program had to be approved by the governing board.
The PTA program also had to become accredited through an accrediting agency, in this case the Commission on accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), Blewett said.
“I attended a CAPTE workshop for administrators who anticipate starting a program and was soon very educated on their accreditation process which is a very thorough and good one,” he said.
CAPTE has very specific standards that programs must be held to, where there must be a minimum of two full-time faculty, one of which has to be a physical therapist, while the other can be a physical therapy assistant, he said.
“Recruiting can be challenging, but the good side is that people who do apply and gravitate towards the community college environment tend to be people who are out in the industry and are subject matter experts who really want to teach,” Blewett said.
Before students would start the full-time PTA program, they would have to take two terms of required courses which include PTA 1001-Introduction to Physical Therapy Assistant.
“PTA 1001 is an open-entry course which will be offered frequently so students who are interested in starting into term three, which is a coordinated full-time program, will take that first to make sure it is something they are well suited to. It is a degree required course but does not mean students will be starting in to the full-time program,” said Blewett.
Term three in the catalog will most likely not start until the fall of 2014 so that students will have the opportunity to take the first two terms of required courses and so faculty will have time to develop the curriculum, he said.
“Physical therapy assistants are very highly skilled, highly knowledgeable, hands-on, patient care specialists who help patients that need physical therapy. They cannot do everything a physical therapist does, but they have an impressive and vast scope of knowledge,” Blewett said.
A physical therapy assistant has to be able to make a good assessment of what a patient needs, make a decision whether or not therapy is working for a patient, make correct recommendations based on assessments, and be highly skilled in psycho-motor procedures done on patients, he said.
Any student interested in pursuing a career as a physical therapy assistant would benefit greatly from the new program, Blewett said.