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5 Things PTs Should Do After Taking a CE Course

Physical therapy continuing education

5 Things PTs Should Do After Taking a CE Course

By Tiffany Aller

Most states require physical therapy continuing education courses regularly to earn CEUs toward maintaining active licensure. Only Maine, Massachusetts and South Dakota do not require PT CEUs to renew licenses. Continuing education provides an opportunity for therapists to remain abreast of emerging techniques, changing regulations and shifting industry paradigms. After you finish your next CE class, remember to do these five things right away.

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Pair your learning with an action plan

Continuing education courses satisfy regulatory demands while also doing something far more valuable: giving clinicians important information that can impact their practice. One of the first steps you should take after finishing your next class is to develop an action plan to put your new learnings into use or practice. “Come up with a concrete plan for how to implement whatever you learned,” recommends Rafael Salazar, President and CEO of Rehab U Practice Solutions. As a therapist, adjunct professor and consultant, he says that “the key to getting the most out of any educational activity is concrete action.” He calls this the difference between the average therapist and those who perform at the top of their field.

Your action plan doesn’t have to be difficult, but it should be detailed. Cover what you plan to do, how you’ll do it, when you’ll start and how you can measure results from any changes you make or new practices you incorporate.

Demonstrate learning to your patients

Once you’ve earned PT CEUs for classes that have taught you new exercises or techniques you can use with your patients, show that learning off. Alice Holland, a Doctor of Physical Therapy for Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, Oregon, recommends that you gather all of the materials from your newly completed course and bring them with you the next time you’re scheduled to work with patients. “Tell patients you are trying to apply new techniques with them and reference the material for accuracy. Your patients will appreciate the new knowledge and may even benefit from them.”

She also reminds that “repetition is key for imprinting.” Remember to save any materials you receive at in-person courses and download session paperwork from online continuing ed classes. Save your notes as well. Refer back to these frequently as you work to incorporate those learnings so they become a natural part of your practice.

Take time to solidify learnings

While creating an action plan and demonstrating new techniques to your patients is important to begin do shortly after your course, it’s best not to make too many changes or try to implement too many new ideas all at once. Matt Huey, a physical therapist with GO Sports Therapy in Coppell, Texas, observes that people who have recently finished a class “come in wanting to do everything they learned in the course.” After changing too much abruptly, enthusiasm levels are hard to maintain and the impact of those changes are lost within a week. “It’s bet to gradually apply what you learn,” Matt says, “so it becomes a normal part of your treatment style.”

Take this into account in your action plan. What pace would best pair with what you’ve learned so you can implement smaller, more sustainable changes over time?

Turn learning into communication

After a physical therapy continuing education class, you have an opportunity to turn your learning into communication in two different ways, according to Lisa Alemi of Move Mama Move in Los Angeles. Alemi, who is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and blogger, first recommends that you “share what has been learned with fellow colleagues.” She points out that “it’s much easier to retain information when you teach it to someone else.” She calls this “a great way to educate your co-workers but also confirm what you have learned.” This is also an opportunity for continued communication with your coworkers about how best to tackle associated areas in harmony in the future.

Your second communication opportunity stems from the class itself. “Reach out to the instructor after the class to thank them for teaching,” she instructs. This expresses your appreciation and also opens an avenue of continuing beneficial contact. You can follow-up by asking “them any questions you didn’t get to ask during the course.” This also gives you an opportunity to “develop a relationship with the instructor for networking and educational purposes.” For in-person courses, remember to also continue networking opportunities with fellow students.

Document everything

Finally, remember to document everything from the course. Keep both an electronic and print copy of your certificate of completion that notes the number of PT CEUs you earned during the class. This certificate should also list the organization granting the CEUs and the specific date you earned them. You must keep these on file for a certain length of time, depending on the state in which you live. For instance, in Texas, you could be audited within six months of licensure renewal. During the audit process, you must produce documentation proving all of your continuing education experiences, which must add up to the 30 CEUs required each renewal cycle. Some CEU-granting organizations offer free portfolios to track the credits you’ve earned, which can be a beneficial opportunity to investigate.

For your own edification, try to obtain downloads or recordings of the classes you’ve attended. You can refer back to these after the class to ensure you fully understand the concepts taught and how to implement them in your practice. Save your notes, as well, as they represent your unique takeaways and can help trigger course memories later.

Continuing education is an important part of managing your practice as a physical therapist. Use these five areas to ensure you maximize the benefits you gain from each class you attend. Doing so can help advance your career, protect your license and enable your patients to experience cutting-edge treatments and therapies.

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