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Physical Therapists Stand Out with Specialty Certification

Physical Therapists Stand Out with Specialty Certification

Cindy Mehallow / Monster Contributing Writer

Open to licensed PTs in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, certification requires a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical experience in the specialty area and successful completion of a written exam. To maintain certification, candidates must hold a current license, log a minimum number of patient-care hours in the specialty and complete a competency assessment every 10 years.

More than 5,200 PTs have become board-certified since the program began in 1990, according to Blake. Roughly half of those are in orthopedics, reflecting the number of therapy patients with orthopedic conditions.

Standing Out for Employers

As awareness of specialty certifications grows, employers are realizing certification can help with hiring, staff development, patient care and obtaining referrals.

“Certification is a good indicator that a job candidate has a certain skill level,” says Feldman, who handles hiring for her department. “A candidate’s ‘years of experience’ [don’t] necessarily translate into clinical skills.”

Certification is also a good time-management tool when screening applicants, she says. “When a candidate has specialty certification, I have greater assurance that I’m getting what I’m asking for,” she says.

Deyle, who reports seeing an increased demand for specialty-certified PTs, cites another benefit. “Employers are looking for people who are motivated enough to go through this process,” he says.

In addition, Feldman says that referral sources are starting to request clinical specialists when referring patients to the RIC. For patients, employers and colleagues in need of a specialist, the ABPTS’s online directory of certified specialists serves as a convenient referral system.

New Perspective

The recognition and career boost that come from achieving a specialty certification are certainly welcome, but Feldman most appreciates what she learned while preparing for the exam in a weekly study group with four colleagues.

“My 15 years of experience gave me the context to better understand the material, and the different perspectives of my study group members helped me look at things differently,” she says. “The best thing I got out of it was the year of studying.”

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