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Education: Worth the Debt

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To the Editor:
This letter is in response to the article titled "Student Debt: A Cost to the Profession," by Bob Feldman, MS, PT, Major, USAR ("Class Notes," Feb. 14, 2005).

I am a physical therapist in the state of Illinois. My journey to achieve my goal of becoming a physical therapist was draining, not only financially but also emotionally. While completing my bachelor's degree, I worked as an aide for a rehabilitation company that had contracts in outpatient, inpatient and SNF settings. I received incredible exposure to the field and, also, developed a greater desire to become a PT.

While applying to PT schools in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was the alternate queen for many PT schools in the midwest. After applying to various PT schools for four years consistently, and also extending my undergraduate years from to take additional pre-requisites for other PT programs, I remained on alternate lists. I also applied to a PTA program, in which I was also an alternate.

In 1993, my alternate number for PTA school was called. I took full advantage of the opportunity to grow in the field that I love so much. After working as a full time PTA for four years, I was ready to increase my autonomy in the workplace and applied to a MPT program. This attempt resulted in acceptance into a MPT program in 1999. Despite having a mortgage and dependence on a full time income, I jumped at the chance to pursue a PT degree. I graduated in 2001 and passed my boards in early 2002. Although I have accrued major debt on my long journey, I would not have changed my mind on becoming a PT. Those who are dedicated to becoming PTs should have no fear of financial debt if becoming a PT is a true desire. 

Your question, "Is the extra $30,000 plus in debt worth it for a difference in clinical professionalism that is not noticeable, or might not even exist at all?" gives clinicians much to think about. One of the first PTs I met in 1990, when I started my journey in the field of physical therapy, was a 70-year-old woman who was still practicing part-time. I always envisioned myself being like her at the age of 70. I know that I will have to transition from MPT to DPT in order to follow my vision. Right now, my plans for the transition are on hold until I pay off my current debt. I am sure that I am not the only PT delaying this next journey.  

Thank you for sharing your piece in ADVANCE. Your words definitely caught my attention.
--Tina Caruso, PT


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