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June 20, 1996

Physical therapy assistant program boosts enrollment at Titusville

Pitt's Titusville campus (UPT) is experiencing its largest summer enrollment ever thanks in large part to its new physical therapist assistant (PTA) program.

A total of 110 students are attending classes on the campus this summer, compared to 96 last summer, according to Gerald Lazzaro, a faculty member and director of public relations. About one-third of those students are in either the PTA or the pre-PTA program.

The PTA program also was recently granted "candidate for accreditation" status by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) of the American Physical Therapy Association.

The action means the UPT program now is only one step away from accreditation, according to Janet Greene, director of UPT's PTA program.

Before it awards accreditation to a PTA program, CAPTE requires that the program graduate a class. The two-year UPT program was launched in fall 1995 and thus will not graduate a class until spring 1997.

"Your declaration of intent is based on what you plan to do, but your accreditation is based on what you've done," said Greene. "They don't want to hear about what you're going to do. You've either done it or you haven't done it." Accreditation will mean that graduates of the program can take the state licensing exam and work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers and other such health facilities as PTAs. Once accreditation is granted, according to Greene, it will be retroactive and PTA certificates earned by current students will be recognized by the American Physical Therapy Association.

"We're not worried about it [obtaining accreditation]," Greene added. "We had a site visit by a person from CAPTE and she had very few recommendations aside from telling us to continue to gather educational materials. That was the only recommendation we had." Should accreditation be denied, Greene said, a contingency plan is in place to address any problems and re-apply. The current class of students would have to wait until the program attained accreditation before they could take their state licensing exams.

Accreditation also will bring wide recognition to the UPT program. Once accredited, the program will be listed in all American Physical Therapy Association and Pennsylvania Physical Therapy Association literature. According to Greene, the Pennsylvania group alone sends out 250,000 pieces of literature annually to prospective students. UPT's physical therapist assistant program is completely different from the physical therapist program on the Pittsburgh campus. UPT's program does not duplicate any existing University program.

According to Greene, physical therapists do evaluations, set up treatment plans, treat patients and determine when a treatment plan needs to be changed. PTAs carry out the treatment plan laid out by the physical therapist and document what has been done.

UPT developed its PTA program to attract students to the campus and to establish it as a gateway to the health sciences. Even without accreditation, the program drew 32 full-time students last year and another 30 who registered for pre-PTA classes. A total of 30 new PTA students, the maximum number the program can accommodate, already have registered for the fall term. The average age of students in the program is 33, according to Greene.

Along with western Pennsylvanians, the program has attracted students and/or inquiries from people in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia, Massachusetts and California. –Mike Sajna

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