Information about the PTA Advanced Proficiency Pathways (APP) Program.
In March 2009, the APTA Board of Directors (Board) voted to establish a task force that includes physical therapist assistants, to determine appropriate post entry-level educational pathways in light of APTA positions, standards, guidelines, policies, and procedures, and other appropriate APTA documents, with an interim report to the June 2010 Board of Directors Meeting and a final report to the June 2011 Board of Directors Meeting. (B of D 03/2009, V -14).
The Board appointed six members (three physical therapists and three physical therapist assistants to the Educational Pathways of the Physical Therapist Assistant Task Force (Task Force). The Task Force developed the Advanced Proficiency Pathway Program to fulfill this charge.
The purposes of the APTA Advanced Proficiency Pathways (APP) Program for the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) are to:
- Provide PTAs with clearly defined post-graduation educational curriculum that leads to advanced proficiency in a selected area of physical therapy (eg, geriatrics, pediatrics, wound management).
- Promote PTAs career development by providing a self-initiated curriculum completion process that strengthens the PT/PTA working relationship and encourages life-long learning.
- Assist physical therapists, employers, consumers, the health care community, and others in identifying PTAs with advanced knowledge and skill in a specified area of physical therapy.
Nature of the Advanced Proficiency Pathways Program
The Advanced Proficiency Pathways are post-graduation curricula designed to increase the participants' knowledge and skill in a chosen area of physical therapy and consist of:
- Core group of courses with knowledge exams that are common to all of the Advanced Proficiency Pathways;
- Content-specific courses (eg, geriatric, cardiopulmonary, pediatric) with knowledge exams that have been developed by clinical experts; and
- Mentored clinical experiences with skill checks.
The didactic component reinforces previously gained knowledge and provides additional content that is not found in most entry-level PTA programs. The mentoring component assures skill practice and demonstration to assure mastery of the psychomotor component of the curriculum. Participants are required to pass all examinations that are integrated throughout the curriculum including knowledge examinations that follow most of the courses in the curriculum and skill examinations that are a required component of the content-specific courses. There is no final comprehensive examination.
Participants in the program work with a support team to assure best outcomes and completion of the AP Pathways. In addition to designated program staff, the support team includes:
- Each participant will select a clinical mentor, a physical therapist that has content expertise and has accepted responsibility for teaching and guiding the PTA through the clinical education component of the curriculum.
- The PTA's supervising physical therapist in his/her place of employment is also part of the support team and may also function as the clinical mentor when appropriate and qualified.
Physical therapist assistants who meet all of the requirements for their selected pathway will be recognized for completion of the advanced proficiency pathway within their selected area of physical therapy. The recognition is for ten years. The recipient will receive a certificate suitable for framing, a lapel pin, and formal recognition via participation in APTA's Annual Honors and Awards Celebration and announcements in APTA publications.
To start an Advanced Proficiency Pathway (APP), participants must demonstrate:
1. Licensure and/or graduate of an accredited PTA program
2. APTA membership
3. Successful completion of prerequisite courses:
4. Supporting letters of reference from supervising physical therapist and clinical mentor
Participants must apply for enrollment in the Advanced Proficiency Pathway of their choice by submitting a completed APP Enrollment Application.
Once accepted into the program, candidates have up to 5 years to complete and submit the program portfolio requirements. These requirements include:
- Completion of 60 contact hours of selected continuing education coursework that meet the defined guidelines and content of the APP, including: APTA "core" courses and selected content courses or equivalent APTA approved courses.
- Mentored clinical experiences (see mentor requirements below) with knowledge/skills assessments, conducted with a self-selected clinical mentor.
- 2,000 clinical hours of work experience in the selected content area.
- Final portfolio review fee of $135
The didactic or knowledge curriculum of every clinical Advanced Proficiency Pathway includes:
- Development of advanced clinical skills and clinical problem solving in the realm of interventions and related data collection that are: specific to the population and types of pathologies seen in the area of physical therapy, consistent with current evidence, inclusive of patient/caregiver/family education; and include instruction in fitness, wellness, and prevention.
- Development of advanced personal and professional values as defined in APTA's Values-based behaviors.
- Development of advanced personal and professional skills in advocacy, leadership, and mentorship; preparing the participant to be a leader in the profession.
- Development of advanced skills in PT-PTA collaboration, including communication and documentation.
Once achieved, the Advanced Proficiency Pathway program recognition is good for a 10-year period.
- Enrollment fee: $135
- Final program portfolio review fee: $135
- Costs of continuing education (varies per candidate)
Mentoring, a critical component of the Advanced Proficiency Pathways, is included to assure that participants are able to access and discuss the evidence; and apply the problem solving, clinical skills, and values-based skills that are developed and enhanced through the APP. Participants are responsible to recruit their clinical mentor and should follow the following guidelines when selecting a clinical mentor. The clinical mentor and supervising physical therapist can be the same person provided that the supervising physical therapist has the required skills to serve as a clinical mentor.
The primary clinical mentor is a physical therapist that has demonstrated competency in the content area and has accepted responsibility for teaching and guiding the PTA through the clinical education component of the curriculum. Other clinical mentors may be physical therapists, PTAs, and other healthcare providers identified by the primary clinical mentor who have demonstrated competency in the content area.
Clinical mentoring: The provision of clinical instruction and feedback to the PTA until the PTA is able to perform the new intervention or behavior independently; and is provided by a clinician who is competent in the intervention and demonstrates professional/value-based behaviors.