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Physical therapist assistant program receives accreditation

May 12, 2017

HCC’s physical therapist assistant (PTA) program is now fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). The status comes shortly before the first cohort of 15 students graduates on Friday, May 12.

“This is great news for students, faculty and the community,” said Daryl Menke, PTA program coordinator and instructor. “Receiving accreditation demonstrates to stakeholders we have developed a high-quality program and shown significant, positive growth throughout the development phase.”

Burning the Midnight Oil

The process for receiving accreditation was rigorous. It started when PTA was identified as a community need in 2012. After three years of planning, the program received candidacy status from CAPTE, which meant the first cohort of students could begin their journey towards a career in physical therapy. The program officially launched in January 2016.

“While we were in candidacy, we put in a lot of work to get to the next level of accreditation,” stated Menke. “From self-studies and reports to reviews and site visits, there was a lot of midnight oil burned.”

In addition to meeting accreditation standards, the program maintained a quality student experience while ensuring students were persevering, succeeding and seeing positive outcomes. According to Menke, “There were several moving pieces and we needed to have the ability to coordinate small and major aspects of the process. This was key and helped us get to where we needed to be.”

Menke goes on to note that it “took a village to start a PTA program.” “I’m pretty sure we utilized the expertise of every person at HCC to help us get to this point.”

Moving Forward

Accreditation also solidified the ability to move forward for soon-to-be graduates of the program. In order to become a licensed PTA, students must graduate from an accredited program so they can sit for the national licensure exam. Additionally, future students can feel confident knowing they are applying to a qualified program.

First PTA cohort

“We were very transparent about the status of our program and what it meant. The students put their trust in us as we did with them. It was a mutual effort to move the program forward and we couldn’t have done it without their support and faith in the program,” said Menke.

Continuous Improvement

Throughout the process, Menke indicated Heartland’s PTA program never had major deficiencies, just normal growth opportunities. Now with an accreditation status, he’s excited for the prospects that lie ahead.

“Just like the institution as whole, we plan to constantly improve and meet community needs,” he said.

Some of those plans include a consistent review of curriculum and the development of advanced proficiencies, which according to Menke, solidify clinical skills at a higher level. “Like any industry, you start at a very basic level and as you gain experience, you build on that skill. We want to be able to provide opportunities beyond the basics so our students enter the field with even stronger knowledge and skill.”

Another idea Menke hopes to formulate in the future is articulation agreements with four-year institutions so students have the option to expand into other areas within the profession itself.    

Looking at both the past and future of the College’s PTA program, Menke is appreciative of the constant support it has received. “It feels like we’re part of the community and they have supported us on all sorts of levels. From saying ‘yes’ to a program at Heartland to the donated equipment and supportive clinical sites, we appreciate everything they have done so we can commit to quality, which is what the program and Heartland are all about.”

About the PTA program

A PTA provides physical therapy treatments under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist to help people recover from injuries, illnesses and surgeries.

The first cohort of 15 students will be recognized at a pinning ceremony on Friday, May 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the Astroth Community Education Center on Heartland’s Normal campus.

The program is now accepting students into its next cohort. Applications are due August 1. More information can be found online.

Written by: Becky Gropp