Physical therapy helps many people who have suffered an immobilizing injury to use that part of their body again. It can help professional athletes get back to playing their sport but also help elderly people recover after they’ve suffered a fall.
Like all doctors physical therapists have assistants that help provide more hands on care for patients. These are known as Physical Therapy Assistants.
Lane’s PTA program is only one of two in the state, the other is at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham. Lane focuses on PTA certification only, and the high student success rate speaks for itself. This is also partially due to Lane’s extensive network of clinics throughout the state that take on the program’s graduates and interns.
“We have a 100 percent employment rate and a 95 percent examination passing rate. Our students also go through clinical internships as well before they are certified as PTAs,” Christina Howard, currently the coordinator of the PTA program of study at Lane said.
Lane’s PTA program is small, only admitting about seven percent of students who apply each year. Howard is of the opinion, however, that this number could go up if the school provided the program with more faculty.
“By increasing enrollment and serving more students, students are clearly interested. We just need the faculty resource to increase the number of students who can succeed in these careers,” Howard said.
Howard also expressed the importance of the connections the program has made with practicing clinics.
“We really rely on these clinics to take our students on as interns,” Howard said. “In order for us to do that we actually have a full time faculty member whose primary role is to develop that program and place students into those clinical sites.”
Since Howard and other faculty members have worked for some time to create those relationships, the clinics who take Lane students on for their internships provide steady and clear feedback to the college on what sort of developments in physical therapy are being made.
“We were the first program in the college to complete the new review process,” Howard said. “In that process we identified that there were some areas in the curriculum that we needed to enhance based on feedback from employers.”
For example, manual therapy has not always been a part of the PTA curriculum.
Historically, a skilled practice only done by physical therapists, manual therapy is now a technique most established clinics need from PTAs upon walking in the door. Howard also explained that this is not required to receive a PTA creditation, but it’s important to have these skills if one has just graduated from the program.
“This particular technique is actually touching and manipulating the soft tissues as well as the joints. Joints tend to move in somewhat predictable patterns,” Howard said. “It’s more than just exercise. You have to physically move the joints in certain directions with certain forces and certain durations before allowing the joints and muscles to move freely in their own natural way.”
Howard added that this particular part of PT has not been taught in the past for entry level PTAs at Lane, but now it’s critical to the curriculum.
A few first year students offer their perspectives.
“I’d like to work with perhaps neurological issues or perhaps orthotics, so that I can work with veterans who have missing limbs and things like that,” said Sativa Braddock, a first year student and disabled veteran. “However, this is one of those programs where you learn as you go so I’m leaving it open to decide what direction I want to take.”
Braddock also shed light on how rigorous the program can be.
“Basically, if you fail one course you have to start over. You really have to give it 100 percent all of the time,” Braddock said. “You’re allowed to come back next fall.”
Braddock added that one of things she’s taken away from the program is how underrated physical therapy is.
“There’s so many good things that can come out of physical therapy. People don’t really realize it until they attend a few sessions. You start to see how much better it is to teach your body how to heal itself rather than just pump it full of medication,” Braddock said.
After graduating, Braddock is hoping to fill a PTA position at the new Eugene Veteran Affairs hospital on Chad Drive in Eugene.
Christianne Paquing-Navarte, another student in the PTA program, shared similar inspirations and feelings.
“I feel like I’ve learned so much about physical therapy in such a short amount of time and I see that as incredibly valuable,” Paquing-Navarte said. “As a PTA you’re really able to develop more of a personal relationship with the patients because you’re with them all the time on their journey to recovery.”
Paquing-Navarte and Braddock are first year students who will be graduating next June, along with about a dozen other classmates with Physical Therapy Assistant certification.