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JULY 13, 2011

College to train high-demand physical therapy assistants

A long-awaited and much-needed Physical Therapist Assistant program will soon be offered at Three Rivers College.

The pilot semester of the new program, which has been created in conjunction with Linn State Technical College, will begin this fall. Through this partnership, students take general education courses from Three Rivers for the first year, and then take the PTA coursework delivered by Linn Tech in Poplar Bluff the second year.

"We have several students who have been preparing to enter this program for over a year," said Kim Shackleford, division chair for Health and Human Services at Three Rivers. "They have to have all of their general education classes finished, including the necessary health and medical pre-requisites."

Those required general education courses include anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, psychology and more. Admission requirements also include satisfactory ACT scores and/or proven success in college coursework, an essay, recommendations, and 40 hours of physical therapy observation in two different locations. Current students interested in entering the PTA program this fall should contact the offices of Nursing and Allied Health (573-840-9680) as soon as possible to make sure they meet all deadlines and requirements.

Prospective students can also call to learn about enrolling in the appropriate Three Rivers classes in order to be eligible for the PTA program in Fall 2012, and afterward. Students wishing to be selected for the program in Fall 2012 are encouraged to apply by the March 1, 2012, priority deadline.

According to Marlene Medin, department chair for the PTA program at Linn State, the program will accept between eight and 10 Three Rivers students for the fall 2011 semester.

"Once we get up to speed, we hope to be able to accept 12 to 14," said Medin. "This model allows students to finish all general education courses at Three Rivers, and then apply to Linn State to begin the PTA coursework at Poplar Bluff in the fall."

Theory sections of the PTA curriculum will be taught via an interactive television (ITV) linkup, through which students will watch and participate in lectures real-time as they are given at Linn State's PTA facilities in Jefferson City. The laboratory, or "hands-on", sessions will be taught in-person at Three Rivers, by a Linn State faculty member. Students graduating from the program will earn an Associate of Applied Science degree from Linn State, and a high-demand skill set.

"Indicators point to continued growth in the field of physical therapy for the foreseeable future," said Medin. "I think the baby boomers will continue to age and need more and more physical therapy to stay active, especially if they experience an accident or other personal injury." Medin also added that the number of physical therapist assistants in Missouri is not enough to meet the demand, and the biggest lack is in Southeast Missouri.

"Gov. Nixon encouraged higher education institutions to collaborate to meet this need," said Medin. "Basically, he told us to do it, and here we are."

This collaboration between Three Rivers and Linn State is made possible through the Missouri Health Professions Consortium, which includes four other state community colleges and the Missouri University School of Health Professions. The goal of the Consortium is to provide education in health professions to students in under-served parts of Missouri by sharing resources and facilities, and through long-distance education technology like ITV.

"Linn State is one of only a handful of community colleges in Missouri with a long-established PTA program," said Shackleford. "Three Rivers made the decision to collaborate with Linn State to deliver this program because they have a successful curriculum already in place, and we wanted their expertise. Their graduates have great pass rates and job placement rates." Linn State's PTA program has maintained a 94% pass rate on the state board exams for the past three years.

For more information, please contact Linn State's PTA program at (573) 893-1020 or visit linnstate.edu.

Representation from both Three Rivers College and Linn State were photographed after a meeting finalizing the plans for the PTA program collaboration. From left: Three Rivers VP for Learning Dr. Wes Payne, Kim Shackleford, Marlene Medin, Linn State PTA instructor KD Berrey, and Three Rivers VP for Student Success Jason Hoseney.
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