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Leaning on your past may hold back your future.

Even with 25 years of diverse PT experience, I was lagging behind my peers

By David Charland, August 2015

I chose to pursue the transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy (tDPT) degree to further my career and knowledge in the physical therapy arena. I started recognizing that I was lagging behind my peers when it came to understanding research and identifying evidence to support different methods they had developed. I was somewhat embarrassed with my lack of current advancements and my inability to maintain conversations regarding new data available. I had good outcomes with the techniques I used, but there were things I missed or lacked and I was not providing all I could for my patients. My past educational experiences includes a variety of programs from being a physical therapist assistant, to physical education, nutrition, athletic training, massage therapy and even an assisted living administrator certification, in addition to my physical therapy degree. This diversity of experience over the past 25 years has provided great benefit in treating and relating to my patients. I was leaning on my past too much and was neglecting my present and future. In speaking with my supervisor about career advancement and opportunities within the Department of Veterans Affairs he informed me the positions are being offered to those with a DPT credential only and proceeded to tell me the limited number of positions for those without the degree. I inquired further about expectations and obtaining an advanced degree and he reinforced positions will be filled with DPT or higher credentialing. This was an eye-opener to me and caused me to start looking around.

After several discussions with co-workers that had undergone similar tDPT programs throughout the US, Utica College was suggested. I was familiar with the area, not the school. Researching different tDPT programs, Utica College was identified repeatedly in the top 5 schools for obtaining a doctoral degree. It became my school of choice. Utica College provides a solid program with all learning conducted on-line except for a 3 day residency that kicked off the start of the program. The application and admission process went smoothly. I want to highlight this point because I graduated from an international school not associated with the US. The physical therapy program is currently not accredited by APTA. The admissions team did their due diligence in evaluating my past educational experiences, practical work in the field, continued learning desire and identified my commitment to being the best therapist I could be. Once I was accepted to Utica College, the information came pouring in, preparing me for the program, identifying the expectations and providing specific topics culminating in a final project called a Capstone Practicum.

This tDPT program opens the door to many new areas that are crucial for the advancement of our practice. The degree itself brings bonus to the responsibilities we as physical therapist will need in the future. The program has been one that challenges and pushes you to your mental and sometimes physical limits. The most important thing I've found with this program is the application of learning the material to real life situations and workload. I have been able to maintain a full-time career as a physical therapist, have weekly date nights with my wife and take care of my personal responsibilities throughout the curriculum. There have been times that are more challenging than others, but with commitment and fortitude it can be done. As with any advanced degree you will be pushed to learn and experience a deeper knowledge and understanding of the practice of physical therapy, which is critical to our field.

About the Author

David Charland and wifeDavid Charland has been working in the physical therapy field for over 25 years with a background in athletic training, nutrition, massage therapy, neural tension and manual therapy. He currently works for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Florida and performs physical therapy over clinical video technology, as well as in person, which allows him to utilize his communication and teaching skills in a variety of ways. He is married and has a golden doodle (dog) that fills his heart with joy.

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