In order to become a certified clinical electrophysiology physical therapist, you must first obtain your degree in physical therapy and then further your education and skills in order to become a specialist.
What Is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy (sometimes called physiotherapy, or abbreviated to PT) is a healthcare profession which is carried out by physical therapists and their physical therapist assistants. They help people who have certain medical problems, disabilities, or conditions which limit their mobility and therefore struggle to function regularly in the physical activities that they encounter on a daily basis. In order to reach a diagnosis, PTs will look at their patients’ medical history and the details of their physical examination (such as a regular check-up), and they will then establish and implement a management plan in order to improve the patients’ quality of life.
There are a number of PT specialty areas, these include:
- Cardiovascular & pulmonary
- Clinical electrophysiology
- Women’s health
What You Need To Know About Clinical Electrophysiology Physical Therapy
Clinical Electrophysiology Physical Therapy is ideal for those of you who are interested in the uses of electrotherapy and other therapeutic technologies in aiding patients. The use of electromyography (EMG) is also promoted in this field.
Electromyography is a diagnostic procedure which is used as an evaluation and treatment tool in detecting the electrical potential generated by muscle cells when they are activated electrically or neurologically. The results are then analyzed by a clinical electrophysiology PT and can indicate muscle weakness. It can also help in differentiating between muscle weakness which is the result of a nerve attached to a muscle, or the result of a neurological disorder.
Within this profession, you will also be involved in:
- Electrophysiology: the study of the electrical properties of biological cells and tissues.
- Wound management: how to effectively treat and manage wounds.
- Electrotherapy or physical agents: Electrotherapy is the use of electrical energy as a medical treatment, or the use of electric currents in order to speed up the process of wound healing. Physical agents are sources of energy that may cause injury or disease, such as noise, altitude, vibration, radiation, extremes in temperature and pressure, and exercise.
The use of electrotherapy may have been somewhat controversial in the past, however these days it has been widely researched and is used in, although not limited to, the example below:
- Pain management
- Improving the range of joint mobility
- Tissue repair
- Increase of blood circulation
- Relaxation of muscle spasms
What Steps To Take In Order To Specialize In Clinical Electrophysiology
This is not something you can simply dive into; in order to be a professional within this specialization you will first have to complete a postgraduate Doctor of Physical Therapy or a Masters of Physical Therapy degree; the latter is less common.
1. Complete Your Undergraduate Degree
The details of this will vary depending on which school or university you will be attending for your postgraduate degree, but you will have had to have passed some form of undergraduate degree. There are a handful of schools which will allow you to enroll in the postgraduate program without an undergraduate degree, provided that you have completed at least three years of prerequisite studies. A completed Bachelor of Science, Applied Science, or Exercise Science is usually enough to fulfill the requirements for your postgraduate degree. A science-based undergraduate degree which will take four years to complete.
Not all schools will have the same prerequisite studies, so it is important to do the necessary research in order to ensure that you complete the required subjects in your bachelor degree. It is best to contact the administrative department directly so that there is no room for error.
The most common prerequisite subjects are:
- Anatomy and Physiology: 99% of programs require you to complete at least one course in either of these fields, however many will also accept a combined course.
- Biology: over 80% of the programs will require this.
- Chemistry: 99% of programs will require this.
- Physics: Again, this will be required for 99% of the programs.
- Social and Behavioral Science: 95% will require one or more courses.
- Statistics: Over 95% of programs will require this.
- Math: Only 26% of the programs require math.
2. Complete Your Postgraduate Degree
The majority of postgraduate professional doctoral degree programs will take three years to complete and include eight to nine semesters, but there are also a few universities which offer a shorter program of two and a half years which will consist of only seven semesters. You also have the option of completing this degree part-time; this could take four to five years and will typically include 12 semesters.
It is most likely that you will complete 30 to 45 weeks of clinical education along with your regular coursework. This will, of course, vary depending on which university you choose.
Your coursework will most likely be comprised of the following curriculum:
- Evidence for physical therapy based practice
- Musculoskeletal anatomy
- Gait analysis
- Clinical biomechanics
- Exercise Physiology
- Cardio-pulmonary pathology and management
- Clinical imaging
- Patient management
After successfully passing your final National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), you will then have your title of Doctor of Physical Therapy (DTP) and can then become a licensed physical therapist. Having this degree means that you have been highly trained and educated to assess, diagnose, prevent, and manage a wide variety of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities related to movement, function, and health.
3. Complete A Physical Therapy Residency Program
You must be a registered physical therapist in your state in order to embark on a physical residency program. This program will typically be completed in one year, however the requirements are that it must be completed within a minimum of 1,500 hours; within a minimum of nine months, and a maximum of three years. You will then be eligible to sit the specialist certification exam. After passing this exam, you will finally be recognized as a physical therapy specialist; in this case, a clinical electrophysiology physical therapist.
This will be valid for ten years, after which you will be required to sit another competency exam in order to ensure that your skills have been kept up to date during your ten years of practice.
The American Board Of Physical Therapy Specialties
Specialist Certification Program
1111 North Fairfax Street
Tel: 1-800-999-2782, ext. 8520
The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) is the governing body for certification (and recertification) of clinical PT specialists. This board is comprised of the following nine individuals:
- Five board-certified physical therapists, each from different specialty areas
- One physical therapist member of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Board of Directors
- One physical therapist who represents the APTA Council of Section Presidents
- One individual with expertise in test development, evaluation, and education
- One non-physical therapist who represents the public
In order to apply for any residency program at ABPTS, you must hold the following minimum eligibility requirements:
- 1. Licensure: You must hold a current license that allows you to practice physical therapy in the United States.
- 2. Fee schedule: You must pay the non-refundable application review and examination fees, after which you will be provided with a copy of of the Description of Specialty Practice (DSP) and the appropriate Self-Assessment Tool for Physical Therapists.
- An APTA member will be charged a total of $1,300 ($500 for the application review fee, and $800 for the examination fee), whereas a non-APTA member will be charged $2,370 ($845 for the application review fee, and $1,525 for the examination fee).
In order to apply for a clinical electrophysiology residency program at ABPTS, you must hold the minimum eligibility requirements listed above, as well as the following:
1. Direct Patient Care/ Electrophysiologic Testing
- Submission of evidence of 2,000 hours of direct patient care in clinical electrophysiology PT within the last ten years.
- 25% of this must have occurred within the last three years.
- A minimum of 500electroneuromygraphy examinations must have been completed during those hours; include evidence of this.
- The remaining patient hours may include observation of examinations and supervised examinations.
- Direct patient care must include activities in each of the elements of patient/client management applicable to the specialty area and included in the Description of Specialty
- Practice: Clinical Electrophysiologic Physical Therapy (DSP). These five elements are examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, and intervention.
2. Clinical Education
- Submission of evidence of clinical education experience in electrophysiologic testing, preferably under the direct supervision of a clinical electrophysiologist who meets the requirements for specialist certification.
3. Patient Reports and Testing Logs
- Submission of actual patient records which have been completed within the past three years.
- These cases must indicate abnormal findings and include one report of a patient with a proximal level compromise representing a radiculopathic process, one report of a patient demonstrating a peripheral nerve entrapment, and one report of a patient demonstrating a polyneuropathic process.
- Copies of testing logs performed for these cases for a three month period must also be submitted.
The decision to become a specialist in clinical electrophysical physical therapy will open many doors for you. Your job opportunities will be greater than if you were simply to remain a physical therapist, and if that is not enough to motivate you to get through all the years of studying and training, the difference in salaries might.
Salaries will vary of course, but here are some examples of average salaries of electrophysical physical therapists as opposed to physical therapists who chose not to specialize (as of July 26, 2012):
- Virginia: $164,000 per year (PT $94,000 per year)
- California: $178,000 (PT $101,000 per year)
- New York: $190,000 (PT $109,000 per year)
- Chicago: $173, 00 (PT $98,000 per year)
The average salary throughout the entire United States of America is $162,000 per year. The PT equivalent is $92,000 per year. So as you can see, there is a noticeable difference, however this should definitely not be your main motivation for choosing this career path.
Other Universities To Consider
Below is some information on some of the best physical therapy universities which you can study at. Before applying for any universities always make sure that it is correctly accredited and make sure that you fully understand the requirements.
Alabama State University offers a Clinical Doctorate degree in physical therapy.
Physical Therapy Program Alabama State University
915 South Jackson Street
Montgomery, AL 36101-0271
Phone: (334) 229-4707
Fax: (334) 229-4945
Web Address: http://www.alasu.edu/academics/colleges–departments/health-sciences/physical-therapy/index.aspx
Program E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
AT Still University of Health Sciences offers an entry level Doctorate degree program.
Physical Therapy Program
Arizona School for Health Sciences
AT Still University of Health Sciences
5850 East Still Circle
Mesa, AZ 85206
Web Address: http://www.atsu.edu/programs/physical_therapy.htm
California State University offers a Master’s degree in physical therapy
Department of Physical Therapy
College of Health and Human Services
California State University, Long Beach
1250 Bellflower Boulevard
Long Beach, CA 90840
Web Address: www.csulb.edu/web/colleges/chhs/ada/pt/
Program E-mail: email@example.com
Arkansas State University offers a Master’s degree in physical therapy
Physical Therapy Program
College of Nursing and Health Professions
Arkansas State University
PO Box 910
State University, AR 72467-0910
Web Address: http://pt.astate.edu/
Program E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org