Residency program gets physical therapists on the right path


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Posted Online: May 24, 2009, 12:00 am
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By John Marx jmarx@qconline.com
Physical therapist Kyle Cottone slowly stretches the shoulder of the man on the medical table.

Physical-therapist resident Jill Badrick watches Mr. Cottone's every move, then repeats the process on the same shoulder.

Mentor and resident are putting orthopedic rehabilitation patients back on the path to everyday life. They are part of the St. Ambrose University Residency Program in association with Rock Valley Physical Therapy.

"St. Ambrose is the organization that is formally recognized as having the residency program by the American Physical Therapy Association,'' said Kevin Farrell, professor and chairman of the post-professional programs/physical therapy department at Ambrose.

The university does the administrative side and offers classes, testing, teaching labs, coordination, etc., while Rock Valley Physical Therapy provides mentoring and hands-on training for residents, he said.

The program is the brainchild of Mr. Farrell, SAU physical therapy instructor Marc Levsen and Rock Valley CEO Steve Layer. Mr. Layer and Mr. Levsen founded Rock Valley Physical Therapy 25 years ago.There were two residents in the program's first year, 2006. This year, there are four.

To qualify for the program, an applicant must finish the physical therapy doctorate program at St. Ambrose and be accepted by Rock Valley. Those accepted -- considered Rock Valley employees -- are mentored by Rock Valley orthopedic physical therapists and work the residency program for one year.

"There are 45 certified resident programs in the United States, but only 22 orthopedic PT residency programs,'' Mr. Farrell said. "Ours with Rock Valley is unique in that there are but two in the Midwest, this one and the one at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is something special.''

Apprehensive when selected as the program's first resident, Mr. Cottone, a Bloomington, Ill., native, said it was the perfect start to his physical therapy career.

"Sure I was nervous.'' he said. "But thankfully, I was not in a situation where I had to fend for myself fresh from school. I was lucky; I had this program to help me through the personal and practical side of what we do. Residency programs have been in place for doctors for years and this patterns that in many ways. It's a great learning and developmental tool.''

The goals of the APTA-credentialed program are to prepare physical therapists to integrate scientific knowledge and clinical practice instruction to develop advanced diagnostic, clinical decision-making and hands-on clinical skills. It also provides a base to gain the tools necessary to develop professionally to mentor, teach and become a source for other physical therapists.

A resident is paid about half of what a full-time physical therapist makes, but has Rock Valley Physical Therapy health benefits and continuing educational opportunities. Mr. Farrell and Mr. Layer said a resident is required by the APTA to have a miniumum of 150 one-on-one hours with a mentor. There are two mentors per site at four Rock Valley Physical Therapy outlets.

"It's s a great clinical experience, a great opportunity, though at times in can be intimidating,'' Ms. Badrick, a Miles, Iowa, native, said. "You can't ask for more of a hands-on way to prepare you for what the job brings. It's tough sometimes to explain that you have graduated, but still are a student, yet you are working. I consider myself lucky to be a part of this.''

Mr. Layer, recognized as one of the top physical therapists nationally, says the program is perfect for his company. He owns 13 outlets across Illinois and Iowa.

"It gives us a chance to see the PT in a clinical setting,'' Mr. Layer, said. "It's great for the resident and it's great for us to see if they will fit into what we offer as a company. It saves us having to bring in someone we don't know and someone who's not familiar with how we do things. It's an easy transition into what we do from the program for the PT.''

And the program's future?

"It works and when something's not broken ...'' Mr. Layer said. "Serioulsy, all involved benefit from what we are trying to do.''














 



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