Physical therapists typically complete 10-40 hours of continuing education courses. Requirements vary by state. Although the American Physical Therapy Association does not itself renew licensure, it offers approved distance-learning continuing education courses that can satisfy many states' licensing requirements.
Here are a few common concepts taught in physical therapy continuing education courses:
- Medical screening procedures
- Pediatrics and adolescence
- Exercise training and rehab
- Clinical reasoning
- Motor function and development
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List of Courses
Medical Screening for Physical Therapists
The medical screening course is designed to prepare current physical therapists with the knowledge and ability to detect medical conditions in patients that require a physician's care. This continuing education course focuses on referral of patients to physicians and communication between doctors and physical therapists. Lectures and laboratory experiences are generally both required in this class. Special topics may include pulmonary and cardiovascular systems, musculoskeletal issues, radiology, pharmacology and pathology.
Physical Therapy for Sports
Physical therapy for sports involves anticipating, preventing or treating injuries and rehabilitating athletes. This work may occur in a physical therapy clinic or at sports events. Physical therapist roles and responsibilities within the sports arena are discussed, as well as injury prevention techniques, neural control principles, weight training, flexibility issues and sports training plyometrics (strength-building, speed-building exercises that involve jumping). Some sports physical therapy continuing education courses are 1-2 days in length, while others require more of a time commitment.
Advanced Manipulation in Physical Therapy
Techniques for evaluating and managing spinal musculoskeletal disorders are introduced in this course, which teaches therapists treatment methods that involve maneuvering patients' bodies. Focus is placed on expanding a physical therapist's clinical knowledge of mobilization, thrust and non-thrust manipulation techniques. Instructors also present the recent guidelines set by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT) Manipulation Task Force.
Rehabilitation Science Advancements
Students enrolled in rehabilitation science advancement courses may earn up to 45 continuing education hours. The class describes new discoveries in the field of rehabilitation for neurological, geriatric and pediatric patients. Methods of treatment, assessment and management in physical therapy and manipulation techniques are explored. The student's goal is to develop broad understanding of recovery processes. Prerequisites for enrollment in this course generally include a current physical therapy license.