University of Maine at Presque Isle officials are pleased to announce that the University's Physical Therapist Assistant Program has received official status as an academic program after receiving full accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education [CAPTE].
"We are delighted to have our PTA Program receive its full accreditation," UMPI Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michael Sonntag said. "This creates very welcome opportunities for those who want to work in this particular healthcare field but don't want to travel hours away from home to get their training. The PTA program is the latest in our range of healthcare program offerings—which includes Medical Laboratory Technology, Athletic Training, and our pre-medical concentration in Biology—and allows us to provide even more instruction in the STEM fields. With careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math as the largest growing job sector in Maine, providing degree programs like this is of the highest priority and helps to fill an important need for the state."
CAPTE's approval makes UMPI's PTA program only the second Physical Therapist Assistant Program available in the State of Maine. The program's initial accreditation is for a 5-year term, which is the best possible outcome for a newly accredited program. With this approval, the program will be able to graduate its charter class this month and help those students to register for the board exam in January 2014.
"We couldn't be happier with our accreditation and the results of the self-study report," Rolon, Director and Assistant Professor of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program, said. "Now that we have the official word, we can move forward with renewed confidence that we are delivering a quality education to our students."
The University began the two-year accreditation process in 2011, hiring Rolon 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.
"Early on in the development phase of the program, I knew that building a strong clinical education component to the program was going to be essential for our success. We were lucky to have hired Vanessa, who has brought to us over 20 years of local clinical experience. Vanessa has been invaluable to the program, expanding our clinical site contracts and assisting our students through the many challenges of clinical experiences," Rolon said. "I have been extremely pleased as well with the committed support of County hospitals and clinics such as TAMC, Cary Medical Center, Northern Physical Therapy, Houlton Regional Hospital and other facilities across the state. Hands-on clinical experiences are the cornerstone of any PTA program and the importance of Vanessa's role and having professional and committed clinical instructors at these facilities cannot be overstated."
In addition to all these accomplishments, the PTA program has established a PTA Lab in Wieden that features the latest equipment to prepare students for the various physical therapy settings they will encounter in their professional careers. Located in the room to the south of the auditorium, the PTA Lab 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.
Right now, the PTA program has a class of 13 qualified students who are taking PTA courses this fall, with another class completing their general education requirements for application to the program next spring.
"We are excited to see our first graduates pass the boards and begin work as licensed physical therapist assistants," Rolon said. "With a solid start behind us, we are confident that there will be many UMPI PTA graduates to make a positive impact in the delivery of health care in Maine for many years to come."