As a new graduate from physical therapy school, I have been flooded with continuing education pamphlets. The seminars available range anywhere from craniosacral therapy for the pediatric population to classes for educating the healthcare provider on the new Affordable Care Act regulations. This leaves one to wonder, how many of these classes are worth paying for and attending? Here are a few strategies to use to help determine if a continuing education class is right for you.
#1. Choose a focus:
If you are an outpatient physical therapist, pick a specific body part and focus on it for your continuing education for the year. It’s easy to get bogged down in the wealth of information that surrounds all of the body regions, but remember that you will have many years to learn it all.
#2. Look for programs that continue a particular curriculum
Some classes offered one time are incredibly informative, but having a program, such as a fellowship that allows physical therapists to continue to progress their studies over the course of years, helps to keep all of the continuing ed course information together rather than in silos that were picked up here and there from different classes. Fellowships are beneficial because they move from the ground up and lay the foundation for successful understanding of complex topics in the future. Fellowships also test your actual retention of information in order to proceed further through both written and practical exams. Continuing education is great, but the education is only as good as what you remember.
#3. Ask around
The physical therapy world is smaller than you might think. Ask other therapists what coursework they have taken and what they found beneficial. From there, you may find there is a class that keeps coming up in conversations with multiple therapists.
#4. Do your research
Please do not blindly sign up for classes based on the pamphlet you get in the mail. Go to the website of the class that interests you and see if there is more information. Google the speaker to see what background he/she has. Look for reviews online about the presentation, the speaker, or the clinical practice where they work. Finally, refer back to #3: always ask peers to see if they have insight on the speaker or class itself.
#5. Expand your horizons
Due to the breadth and depth of physical therapy, it is hard to be a generalist anymore. Eventually, you may choose to specialize in something you find interesting. If that becomes the case, your continuing education should not only help you learn about your specialty, but also allow you to advertise your dedication to improving yourself as a therapist by becoming credentialed. The credentials that you receive help physical therapy businesses know what your specialties are and help curious patients understand what type of treatments you may provide.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you may pick a loser and feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth from a continuing education seminar. Hopefully with these strategies, the duds will be few and far between.