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Meeting regional needs and providing unprecedented professional opportunities
When assessing growth opportunities for physical therapists in New Hampshire, the numbers say it all. The June 2014 report on New Hampshire Employment Projections by Industry and Occupation through 2022 anticipates 66 physical therapy job openings annually, with a 31.1% growth rate, and categorizes the profession with a “Very Favorable” descriptor. As chair and program director of Plymouth State University’s Department of Physical Therapy Professor Sean Collins, PT, ScD couldn’t be happier.
Collins came to Plymouth in the summer of 2015, hired by Dean Gail Mears and then-Provost Julie Bernier to establish a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. “As the northern-most university in the state, Plymouth State has an obligation to make a positive contribution to healthcare in the region,” asserts Bernier. “Historically, the North Country has had difficulty attracting and retaining healthcare providers, so expanding our offerings in healthcare was a priority. We were fortunate to attract Dr. Collins. His leadership in establishing the DPT program has been exceptional.”
As soon as Collins arrived at Plymouth State, he got to work, designing a curriculum for the new DPT program and taking the steps necessary to get the accreditation process underway. On November 30, 2016, the efforts of Collins and his team were rewarded with the granting of “candidate for accreditation status” from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE); the program welcomes its inaugural class in June of 2017. “We’ve committed to a maximum class size of 30 to facilitate greater faculty-student connections and to avoid overusing clinical sites in the region,” Collins notes.
Initial response to the nascent program has been overwhelmingly positive. “Regional practitioners are excited about helping doctoral students obtain practical experience, and they appreciate the continued professional development that the partnership will encourage as well,” says Deirdre “Dee” Daley, director of clinical practice at WorkWell Prevention & Care and president of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association.
Collins is grateful for the positive reception and says that interaction with the broader campus and local community is precisely what’s needed to allow students to integrate their conceptual knowledge with practical skills. “As a member of PSU’s new ‘Health and Human Enrichment Strategic Cluster,’ the physical therapy program has unprecedented opportunities to allow students to interact with campus and community partners to serve a community need, while at the same time gaining valuable, hands-on experience in the field,” he says.
“As we look to the future, the University is transitioning to a cluster-based model,” notes Bernier. “Under this model, opportunities for integrated learning will bring DPT students together with students in business, marketing, psychology, biology, health, graphic design, or computer technology to partner with organizations or businesses in the region to develop new products or deliver services. The clusters will provide an opportunity for students to have more hands-on experiences in interdisciplinary teams, much like those they will work in when they begin their careers. Interdisciplinary clusters will allow students to bring their discipline expertise to bear on the project or problem at hand.”- Lori Ferguson
PSU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program is currently accepting applicants for the Class of 2017. For more information, please visit our website, https://www.plymouth.edu/department/physical-therapy/.
Lori L. Ferguson is a freelance writer based in southern New Hampshire. She enjoys writing on lifestyle and health and wellness topics, as well as all things artistic.