By Marcy L. Crouch, PT, DPT, CLT, Women’s Health Residency Committee Representative

 

As our profession continues to grow, become more evidence-based, and is starting to receive the recognition it deserves, clinicians must also rise to the occasion. This is especially true for us as Women’s Health Clinicians. We are a small and proud group of clinicians that hold unparalleled compassion, empathy, and sensitivity for our patients. We are dedicated and strive to raise awareness and provide care to an underrepresented patient population of men and women who need our help. I have had the opportunity this past few years to become enveloped in this community of amazing and strong colleagues as I became active in the Section as a student and then continued on to complete a Women’s Health Residency at Baylor and Texas Women’s University in Dallas, Texas.

As a student and then as a new clinician in an arduous post-professional program, I strived to challenge myself as a clinician and was dedicated to help advance the field of Women’s Health Physical Therapy. Completing a residency and continuing to pursue post profession development is paramount for the new clinician to continue the advances that have all ready been made. As we continue to fight for Direct Access and appropriate reimbursement, we also strive to demonstrate that we are collectively a group of competent and capable clinicians. It is imperative that practicing clinicians are up to date with current practice acts, the highest level of research available to support our interventions and assessments, and practice standards.

Gone are the days where we are thought of as “Glorified Personal Trainers”. We have moved from Bachelor’s degrees to Masters to Doctorates and PhD’s. Residencies and Post-Professional development are becoming more and more readily available. Clinical Specialist examinations given by the American Physical Therapy Board of Specialities have certified 82 Women’s Health Clinical Specialists by the year 2010. That number is growing every year as more clinicians are sitting for the specialist examination. The Baylor/TWU Women’s Health Residency was the fourth credentialed program in the US and the only one west of the Mississippi. There are more active programs in development at this time, and they are currently undergoing the application and credentialing process.

Residencies are a good option for the clinician who not only wants to spend a year immersed in Women’s Health, but also who wishes to help advance the field of physical therapy and who wishes to meet the higher standard of clinical practice. The programs are a blend of clinical and didactic work, and require the clinician to step out of their comfort zone and become independent thinkers and develop high level clinical reasoning skills. The resident is expected to be a self directed learner, and demonstrate advanced clinical mastery in the practice of Women’s Health Physical Therapy. Excellent mentorship with a blend of didactic work helps to prepare the clinician to not only become the experts in Women’s Health, but also to sit for the Women’s Health Clinical Specialist Exam and earn the title of a Board Certified Clinical Specialist.

My experience as a budding new clinician in a post professional residency program was  a positive one. I wanted mentorship, exposure to the population, and didactic work that focused on the all the aspects of Women’s Health. As I transitioned through the program and now out into the field, I realize that my journey has only just begun. The residency is a stepping stone towards my personal and professional goals. It is the “tip of the iceberg”, if you will. It has helped me to start my journey to who I want to be as a clinician. I still have a long way to go, but I am grateful for the Residency and the relationships with colleagues and patients I had the honor to be a part of. I encourage new clinicians and students to consider Residency as an option for professional and personal growth.

Look for us at CSM 2012 in Chicago! We are hosting the second annual panel discussion titled, “Everything you need to know about Women’s Health Residency”, where current residents, program leaders, and alumna share their experiences and answer audience questions. It was a success at CSM 2011 in New Orleans, and we are looking forward to presenting again in Chicago. Also visit www.womenshealthapta.org/credentialing/opportunities.cfm and www.apta.org/CareerDevelopment/ to learn more about professional development opportunities and upcoming residency programs.

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