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Welcoming States of Mind

The Western Region provides ample opportunities for PTs

Vol. 23 • Issue 24 • Page 21

To sum up what she likes about living and working in Hawaii, Kara Infante, PT, answers in one word: Aloha.

"Aloha means affection, peace, compassion and mercy. As physical therapists, we use these values on a daily basis and it is great to share them with a community that exemplifies and appreciates the spirit of Aloha," said Infante, a physical therapist at the Women's Health Center at the Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu.

Infante joined the board of directors of the Hawaii chapter of the APTA, whose goal is to represent all PTs and PTAs in Hawaii, and strive to maintain the integrity of the profession. Like many chapters in neighboring states, HAPTA hosts a spring and fall conference with continuing education courses, and some of the hospitals and private practices bring in various courses. But there is not a diverse spread of continuing education classes in the state since CEUs are not part of the PT licensure requirement in Hawaii, Infante said. However, HAPTA continues to work toward the addition of a continuing education licensure requirement.

Work Settings

In terms of work settings, Oahu consists mostly of outpatient orthopedics clinics, inpatient/outpatient hospital clinics, military treatment facilities and a rehab hospital. "As you spread to the outer islands, the options do become more limited," Infante said. "I moved here almost two years ago and I was able to get a few job interviews very quickly, so from my perception the job market is open."

The healthcare climate in Oregon has a progressive approach to PT services, which is a professional highlight for Mary Hlady, PT, DPT, OCS, PT lead at Providence Gateway Rehab in Portland.

"We have direct access and a state healthcare plan that has a pilot program for direct access to PT for low-back pain," Dr. Hlady said. "As a state with a population that values outdoor activities including biking, hiking and skiing to name a few, more of our patients are looking for ways to stay active. Also as a state with lower population, we have an intimate PT population where clinical and professional leaders are easy to meet and get to know."

Raise a Pint

One way to get to know the state's leaders is by attending "Third Thursday Pub Nights," which are held in Portland and Eugene.

"It's a great way to network and meet colleagues from many different practice arenas and areas of expertise," Dr. Hlady said. "It's also a great way for students to meet future colleagues and working PTs to interact with our professional leaders."

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Wyoming PTs have many opportunities for work in a variety of settings: school, hospitals, outpatient facilities, nursing homes, rehabilitation hospitals, oncology centers and home health facilities, said Pamela Mills, PT, WCS, president of the Wyoming Physical Therapy Association. "Because of our small population and since we have direct access, we often serve as an important link between patients and other medical professionals," she said.

There are always jobs available, and getting to work is easy and quick. "We have access to all kinds of outdoor activities just minutes from where we work," said Mills, who owns Wildflower Health Clinic in Casper.

Open Practice Act

Colorado has one of the best open practice acts for PTs, said Gregory Johnson, PT, FFCFMT, of the Institute of Physical Art in Steamboat Springs, CO, which offers continuing education courses in Functional Manual Therapy Movement Reeducation for PTs, PTAs and occupational therapists.

There are many CE opportunities, accredited fellowship and residency programs, and jobs for PTs with advanced training, he said. "PT is a highly valued profession in our state; it is a great working environment."

Opportunities for continuing education are decent in Colorado, said Valerie Gluth, PT, of Mountain View Physical Therapy in Evergreen. However, Gluth would like some of the bigger names for manual therapy certifications visit the area annually in order to give therapists the opportunity to attend without the additional expense of travel and hotels.

Gluth appreciates Colorado's direct access, but believes the job market remains tight.

"Medicare cost-cutting affects us across the board," she said. "Denver in particular has a lower rate of reimbursement for private PT-owned clinics than rural areas, and it is difficult to make a profit when reimbursement continues to be cut."

Like many of her fellow PTs, Susan Doucette, MS, PT, past president of the Utah Physical Therapy Association (UPTA), says it is great to practice in a state that has direct access, and the state of Utah has had direct access for around 30 years. "There are many impressive physical therapists in our state who are extremely dedicated to the profession of physical therapy and many who are helping to elevate the profession in terms of research and clinical expertise," Doucette said. "And living in the mountains allows for many great outdoor activities."

Sharik L. Peck, MRC, PT, CEAS, who owns Maximum Function Physical Therapy in Richmond, UT, likes working in a semi-rural area.

"Diversity of practice is definitely exciting for those of us who tend to get bored easily," Peck said. "I am close enough to a large population area to find everything that I need and far enough away to enjoy the great outdoors and the laid-back country lifestyle I love."

Peck moved to Richmond six years ago and built a practice, which covers a wide range of services. "In any given day, I may spend half a day with industry in our area, see a client in a home health setting, or see several clients experiencing chronic pain," Peck said. "I enjoy the variety and have been able to create that type of practice for myself. I believe jobs are available in a variety of settings in our region."

Although New Mexico is geographically large, it is easy to become involved with the leaders of the profession, said Myrna Brown, PT, DPT, director of clinical education for the PTA program at Carrington College in Albuquerque. "The New Mexico chapter is extremely active in promoting all aspects of the profession," Dr. Brown said.

An annual fall conference with continuing education opportunities from nationally known speakers as well as local presenters provides CEUs for members and non-members of the APTA. Many private practice owners belong to an organization called Desert States, which focuses on their specific needs. The New Mexico chapter and Desert States work together to provide advocacy for the profession regarding legislative and practice issues. "The need for physical therapists throughout New Mexico, especially in rural areas, has increased the respect of the profession," Dr. Brown said.

A shortage of licensed physical therapists has created a high demand and increasing salaries, especially in areas outside of the three major cities: Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces. "These rural areas are especially in need and salaries have increased in an attempt to attract them and are often at a minimum of six digits for new graduate DPTs," Dr. Brown said. "Three accredited physical therapist assistant programs are providing additional licensed professionals to meet this demand: Carrington College, San Juan College and Pima Medical Institute."

As the current first vice president of the Arizona Physical Therapy Association, John Heick, PT, DPT, is in charge of programming. Arizona hosts state meetings in the spring and fall, in which therapists network both professionally and socially.

"We offer clinical updates throughout the year to include a student conclave, practice management, women's and pediatric update, for all of which therapists receive continuing education hours and networking opportunities," Dr. Heick said.

Dr. Heick loves Arizona and practicing there because of its ideal climate that allows for an active and salubrious lifestyle. "Our patients and our therapists enjoy getting out to seize the day!" Dr. Heick said. Professionally and specifically at the House of Delegates level, Arizona is known as a progressive and energetic delegation, he said. "It is exciting to be part of such a well-respected group of physical therapists as we have in Arizona."

Great Opportunities

Not only does Nevada boast direct access, unrestricted manipulation and great weather, but "best of all, great opportunities exist for continuing education as almost everyone holds a class in Vegas," said Jenelle Lauchman, PT, DPT. "We also have an active student special interest group and we are starting a PTA SIG this year," she said. "All counties in Nevada are underserved according to the government; we normally have 10-plus jobs on our chapter job line."

Nevada is home to a small physical therapy community, with around 1,000 PTs and PTAs in the entire state, said Andrea Avruskin, PT, DPT. "So you can get to know many of your fellow PTs pretty quickly and see them at many of the gatherings."

PTs who specialize in a particular area can build a reputation and practice pretty quickly in their area of expertise, Dr. Avruskin said.

With a large number of retirees living in Nevada, there is plenty of work for physical therapists, said Sue Schuerman, PT, PhD, GCS, assistant professor and director of clinical education in the physical therapy department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

"We have many opportunities for physical therapists and PT assistants in outpatient settings, acute care hospitals, acute rehab hospitals, and particularly in sub-acute rehab and skilled nursing facilities," Dr. Schuerman said.

California has multiple opportunities for learning and professional service, said Jason Tonley, DPT, OCS, program coordinator, Kaiser Permanente, Southern California, Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Programs.

"From an educational standpoint, Southern California has multiple entry-level PT schools that publish clinically relevant research disseminated quickly through interaction with students, access to multiple APTA-credentialed residency and fellowship programs and faculty, and access to progressive current clinical training through seminars and extended continuing education series."

In terms of practice, Southern California has access to a very diverse population, which allows for PTs to focus on one particular area or, conversely, diversify their practice. "Overall the job market appears to be healthy in California," Dr. Tonley said.

Not only is Elaine Armantrout, PT, DSc, ECS, impressed by the talents and expertise of her Washington state colleagues, but she also appreciates the respect that PTWA members bring when debating issues, whether it's on a specific treatment topic or politically related.

"Our clientele is definitely interested in staying healthy and physically active," said Dr. Armantrout of Cypress Labs PLLC in Seattle. "People choose to live here because of the recreational opportunities afforded by living near the sea, lakes and mountains. "

Idaho also is a pro-PTA state and the PTs work well with their fellow PTAs, said Christy Hall, PTA, BS, Idaho PTA Caucus representative and certified Arthritis Foundation instructor. With the recent opening of more PTA schools, Hall said jobs for the PTA may get tighter over the next few years. 

Sarah Long is a freelance writer.

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