The University of Maine at Presque Isle's developing Physical Therapist Assistant Program is one step closer to earning accreditation after receiving word recently that it has achieved candidacy status from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education [CAPTE].
"This status means that we are now a candidate for accreditation and have the green light to accept a class into the technical phase of the program this fall," UMPI Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Sonntag said. "We are so pleased to reach this important milestone. Having this program is going to allow us to expand opportunities for those in the region who want to pursue a healthcare career without having to travel long hours for their training."
When it is accredited, the program would be one of two Physical Therapist Assistant programs available in the State of Maine.
The University began the two-year accreditation process in 2011, hiring Christopher Rolon last fall to develop and lead the associate degree program. Since then, Rolon has worked with area hospitals to create partnerships with the program; collaborated with UMPI's Athletic Training department and local physical therapy professionals on laying the program's foundation in terms of policies, curriculum, and clinical site contracts; and Vanessa Patenaude has been hired to serve as a Professor and the program's Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education.
According to Rolon, their hard work has seen fruitful results so far.
"We currently have a class of eight qualified students who are taking PTA courses this fall, and we have more than double that number completing their general education requirements for application to the program next spring," Rolon said.
With the initial cohort of UMPI students now undertaking the first of their final three semesters in the PTA Program – which includes two semesters of technical courses and a semester of clinicals – there are three other major accreditation milestones left to reach:
• The completion of the first cohort's final clinicals, expected by Fall 2013,
• The final accreditation decision by CAPTE, expected in November 2013, and
• The graduation of the first cohort of students, expected in December 2013. The University would become accredited with the successful completion of the first graduating class and by completing a satisfactory program self-study report over the next year.
As the accreditation process moves forward, officials are preparing to showcase the PTA program to the community with an Open House event on Saturday, Sept. 15, from 9 to 11 a.m. in Wieden Hall. The new PTA Lab in Wieden, located in the room to the south of the auditorium, is outfitted with the latest equipment to prepare students for the various physical therapy settings they will encounter in their professional careers. This includes parallel bars; wheelchairs, crutches, canes, and walkers; therapeutic modalities including electrical muscle stimulators and ultrasound; exercise equipment including a pulley system, Upper Body Ergometer, weights, balls, and bands; and a smart projector system that responds to touch.
The main PTA lab has treatment tables that can accommodate 14 students and there is a secondary lab for hospital environment simulations that boasts an electric hospital bed and a patient vital signs monitor for heart rate, blood pressure, and EKG.
The public is invited to attend this special Open House and catch the very first public glimpse of the PTA Program's new classroom and lab space.
"Vanessa and I are excited to be teaching a great charter class and preparing them for clinical work next semester," Rolon said. "We hope anyone interested in the program will stop by the open house this Saturday or contact us for more information. We're here for you!"