Bill Young, PCS, DPT, a professor in AHU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, recently earned an American Board of Physical Therapy Specialist (ABPTS) certification in pediatrics. It’s an impressive achievement considering the tough eligibility requirements and subsequent high standards for maintaining the certification. As a testament to its difficulty, there are approximately 2,000 people certified nationwide and only about 70 in Florida.
To be eligible to take the certification exam, all candidates must go through a review process. They must have at least 2,000 hours of direct patient care or take on a fellowship program, and already have a license in PT. With 23 years of experience in pediatric physical therapy, Dr. Young met the hours requirement with ease.
Preparing for the exam was an epic undertaking. The specialty counsel that writes the test provides a Description of Specialty Practice (DSP) document to help applicants prepare. Dr. Young referenced the documents but reported that most of his study preparation came from an online program called MedBridge.
The exam contains 200 multiple choice questions broken into one and a half hour blocks of 50 questions each. Dr. Young recalled how each test taker had a personal camera focused on them to ensure there was no suspicious activity. There are no penalties for wrong answers and there is one optional 50-minute break. “It was the hardest test I have ever taken,” said Dr. Young, “surpassing state board exams by far.” The scores are scaled, and each participant needs a score of at least 500 to pass and get certified.
A few months later, Dr. Young learned that he had passed. He was given a prestigious certificate and lapel pin and will be recognized at the American Physical Therapy Association’s (APTA) Recognition Ceremony for Clinical Specialists in January 2020.
Passing the exam is only part of the work. Maintaining his certification requires strict upkeep regulations. The certification lasts for 10 years and then the specialist must take another test like the first one to be recertified. In years three, six, and nine of the 10-year stretch, there are additional requirements to meet.
The awardee needs to keep their PT license and continue to participate in direct patient contact. They also need to maintain involvement in ongoing professional development which can include: furthering their education coursework, publications, presentations, research, clinical instruction, teaching, and clinical instruction, supervision, or consultation. In addition, Dr. Young will have to use an online system to document reflective portfolios to demonstrate competency in patient-client management.
Dr. Young happily notes that the new certification will bring credibility to his scholarly agenda and research as well as an opportunity to be better recognized at state and national organizations. To other physical therapists looking to get a specialist certification, he urged, “If you have an interest in doing it - you should. It was very challenging but well worth it.”