By Holly Desrosier
Craven Community College’s (Craven CC) Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program is currently accepting applications through April 30. The college accepts a cohort of 22 students into the program each spring for fall admission.
A PTA is a healthcare provider who works under the direction of a physical therapist. PTAs are involved in treatment of individuals with muscular, skeletal, cardiopulmonary and nervous system disorders. They may also be involved in injury prevention or programs specifically targeted toward individual or group wellness. Treatment may include therapeutic exercise, ambulation training, activities of daily living and administration of physical agents such as heat and cold.
Dr. Dan Friedlander, PTA program coordinator and faculty, said the PTA program appeals to those who enjoy working with people and solving problems. PTAs regularly try to find the “cause of the cause” and address the original source of pain, dysfunction or limitation to improve patients’ lives.
“Typically, those entering the program think they need to have an interest in athletics—however, they soon find that there are many avenues within the profession,” said Friedlander. “If you are interested in older adults, pediatrics or patients who have sustained a brain injury, there is a place for you in this profession.”
The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. It is very hands-on and includes many instructional lab components with multiple practical exams to test skill acquisition. Real-life simulations give students the knowledge to succeed during clinical rotations, where they obtain the experience needed to start a career.
“Most treatments are accomplished through the use of our hands, body mechanics and an extensive knowledge about the human musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems to ultimately create a change within our patients,” said Friedlander. “These changes include decreasing pain and improving one or more the following: strength, flexibility, body mechanics, balance and posture.”
Student Brittany Foy graduated from UNC-Pembroke in 2009 but came back to Craven CC to complete the PTA program. Although she had earned a Bachelor’s degree in exercise science, she decided to go back to school after discovering a lack of job opportunities in her chosen field.
“Craven CC’s PTA program is wonderful,” she said. “The instructors are very knowledgeable and so encouraging. Although the instructors are all so different and use various methods to ensure we understand the material, they all have one goal: make great PTAs.”
The program utilizes instructional labs extensively. Nearly all of the core courses include an instructional lab component with the ultimate goal of helping patients become more independent with their everyday tasks.
Students in the program will participate in various lab settings, such as functional training labs in which they learn safe and effective patient transfer techniques, gait and stair-training strategies, bed mobility training and other activities of daily living techniques.
Strengthening labs will teach students safe, effective strengthening strategies for patients of all ages, sizes, stages of recovery and pathologies involved. They will also be instructed on use of modalities to reduce pain, inflammation and swelling, such as therapeutic electric stimulation, cold and thermal therapies, therapeutic ultrasound and diathermy.
Students will also learn manual therapy techniques through various forms of active stretching. Aquatics therapy labs will instruct students to use an aquatic environment for therapeutic benefits. They will also learn how neuromuscular inventions can benefit patients who have had a stroke, traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury.
Pediatrics therapy labs will cover the treatment of pediatric patients with developmental delays, congenital abnormalities or acquired pathologies. PTA students will also learn about amputations and prosthetics treatment techniques with the help a local prosthetist and orthoptist.
“Our clinical rotations are great,” said Foy. “We get to take all the information we’ve gathered and put it to use in the clinics. I am so fortunate to have chosen Craven CC to help me pursue my dream.”
Upon successful completion of the program, students will be able to help provide neuromuscular re-education, therapeutic exercises and joint/soft tissue mobilization to patients recovering from strokes or sports injuries. Graduates will also be able to provide hands-on care that helps patients improve their quality of life.
This article can also be found at the Sun Journal.