How Can the APTA Help Me?

Name: Lina Kleinschmidt

Undergrad: Pacific University

Hometown: Stuttgart, Germany

Fun fact: I was born and raised in Stuttgart, Germany

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As a physical therapy student and future physical therapist, the APTA is something you will hear about over and over again. With job opportunities, continuing education classes, research updates and legislation information, the APTA has endless amounts of information at the hands of students and professionals. However, the website and all the resources may seem a little overwhelming. Therefore, here is a little introduction into the APTA and how you can use it to further your education and career.

What is the APTA?

The APTA, or the American Physical Therapy Association, is a professional organization that represents physical therapy students, physical therapists and physical therapy assistants and has over 103,000 members. It is divided into state chapters each with a governing board. We at Regis University are fortunate to have Cameron MacDonald as an assistant professor, and he is the current president of the Colorado chapter which currently has 2,700 members. It is vital for each state to have a chapter since each state has different practice guidelines and thus must have individual legislation.

There are also sections within the APTA, which include: acute care, aquatics, cardiovascular and pulmonary, education, federal, geriatrics, hand and upper extremity, home health, pediatrics, private practice and quite a few others.  These sections allow you as a student or current PT to learn more information about different specialties. For example, I am part of the neurology section and as such, I get quarterly journals that inform me on the latest research and new updates in the realm of neurology and how it affects the physical therapy industry.

Districts are even smaller groups which are broken up by geographical location and each chapter has SIGs or special interest groups. Colorado has five statewide SIGs which include: Colorado Acute/Rehab SIG, Pediatric SIG, Private Practice SIG, PTA SIG and the Student SIG.

Continuing education (CE) classes happen often and allow students or PTs/PTAs to learn more about a specific topic and have hands on practice. I attended a vestibular and concussion CE class last fall and it completely opened my eyes to a world of physical therapy I had never heard of before. The APTA has a national conference called Combined Sections Meeting, or CSM, which is an incredible opportunity to learn about the profession and what new research developments are forthcoming. CSM is also a great way to network and get to know other practitioners in the physical therapy profession. The Colorado Chapter also has an annual convention called the Fall Convention & Expo.

How can I use the APTA?

Now that you have an introduction, it is important to know what you can do NOW. Depending on where you are in your journey, this may be different for each of you. If you are currently applying to PT school, the APTA website can help guide you in preparing for your interview questions, help you understand what is in your scope of practice depending on the state and school you apply to, and impress the faculty by understanding what is happening in the PT profession.

As you start your graduate school career, the first step is to become an APTA member! Some graduate programs require it, others do not. Either way, I highly recommend you become part of the association so you can reap the full benefits of the APTA and have your voice heard. Click here for joining the APTA. Attending state and national conventions will also give you a huge head start on understanding what the real world of physical therapy is like and they are a great chance to meet students from all over the US and also network!  The easiest step is to get involved with SIGs. Each university will have student special interest groups which hold meetings and special guest lecturers which allow students to connect and communicate about a specific PT specialty.

At Regis and CU Denver, we have multiple sSIGs that our students are involved in and I am lucky enough to be involved with the APTA sSIG this year. I will be working closely with the other sSIGs as well as the PTA schools to have a year of amazing events for our students. We hope to open their eyes to all the opportunities in Colorado. These include: panels about specialties and what to do after graduation, a kickball tournament, a national advocacy dinner and so much more!

Yes, this was a lot of information. No, I do not expect anyone to remember it all. But it is important that you get involved and find what you are passionate about. So now, go to www.apta.org and become a member today!

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