Physical therapy grads set record on national exams

Courtesy photo. AC physical therapy students demonstrate how to move a patient in bed.

By RAZ RASMUSSEN, Ranger Reporter:

Amarillo College physical therapy assistant students are setting records. For the first time in the program’s history, 100 percent of the students who graduated passed their national exams on the first attempt.

“When our graduates finish in our program, they have to actually go on and take the national exam,” Sue Grady, director of the physical therapist assistant program said. “We had fourteen graduates in May and they’ve all taken the exam and passed. That’s the first time that’s been done in the last five years. It’s a very difficult examination.”

The national exam provides three attempts  to pass. Before this year, the program came its closest to a 100 percent pass rate three years ago when only one student failed, Grady said.

According to Grady, this is a big accomplishment, not only beacuse of the challenging program, but also because both of the instructors are new.

Having two new instructors has not been a problem, according to physical therapy assistant major Takara Riedinger.

“Shawn and Sue just came in January and took over the program,” Riedinger said. “It’s been really neat to see them take it by the reigns and hit it with full force. They want to see everybody succeed, and they want to have a good reputation that they’re educating the students at AC and represent this program well. They also want to show that they and their students can provide good patient care in the city of Amarillo.”

Both instructors said that they take their teaching roles seriously. “We want the students to be really good PTAs around Amarillo because we may work with them someday,” Shawn palmer, academic clinical coordinator, said. “We want them to be responsible. When you want your students to excel, then as the instructors, we have to excel.”

Grady agreed, noting, “I’ve been a physical therapist for my whole career, but now I’m a physical therapy educator, and that’s very different for me, and I have to get up to speed on all of the educational processes.”

The physical therapy assistant program is also in the process of undergoing a reaccreditation evaluation.

“Graduation rate, rate of passing and the employment rate are the three things they really look at to see if we are very successful,” said Palmer. “It’s a big thing that our accrediting body looks at–whether our graduates are passing the national exam or not.”

Grady said that the  100 percent pass rate should help with the reaccreditation.

“It shows essentially that our graduates are at a standard where they can go in and be effective therapy assistants and work safely and productively in the clinic,” Grady said.

Riedinger said she is pleased with the quality of education she has received so far. “It’s been a really good fit for me and I’m learning a lot and it’s good to know that you get a good amount of education within a couple of years and then you’re well prepared to enter the workforce,” she said.

Palmer said that the ultimate test for the quality of the physical therapy assistants program is how the graduates perform in the workplace.

“They’re getting employed and they’re staying employed, which is more important,” she said.

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