The field of physical therapist assisting is so promising that the Nebraska Department of Labor designated it among the state’s top jobs, thanks to strong job growth, high demand and great earning potential. As new research increasingly demonstrates the value of physical therapy in treating everything from neurological issues to traumatic injuries, the demand for rehabilitative and therapeutic services is only expected to grow.
While 668 physical therapist assistants were licensed to practice in Nebraska as of 2012, by 2022 this number is expected to increase by 32% according to the Nebraska Department of Labor. This rate of growth should open up an average of 39 new physical therapist assistant jobs in the state each year during this ten-year period.
Nebraska offers a wide range of employment options in its hospitals, outpatient facilities, nursing homes, home health agencies, and schools. One of the newest rehab facilities in Nebraska is the 5,000-square foot rehab gym at Hillcrest Physical Therapy in Bellevue. This state-of-the-art facility features a cushioned walking track along with new Keiser fitness equipment that is air pressure resistant, ensuring all the benefits of physical therapy while virtually eliminating the potential for strain or injury.
Steps to Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Nebraska
Becoming a physical therapist assistant in Nebraska starts by qualifying for a PTA certificate through the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services.
Follow the step-by-step instructions in this simple guide to learn how to become a licensed physical therapist assistant in Nebraska:
Step 1. Complete a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Associate’s Degree Program
Your first step to becoming a licensed PTA in Nebraska is to enroll in a physical therapist assistant associate’s degree program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and approved by the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services.
For your two-year associate’s degree program, you and can choose from accredited physical therapist assistant schools located in a number of cities throughout Nebraska:
Your degree options in Nebraska include:
- Associate of Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AS)
- Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS)
One college offers a transfer PTA track for students who already have an associate’s degree. In addition, this school offers you the option to continue your studies and earn a Bachelor of Science in Health Care Business with a major in Management in addition to your associate’s degree in physical therapist assisting.
At some schools, you will take a year of prerequisite courses and then apply to the PTA component of the program. Your education in physical therapist assisting will include both lecture and lab courses. In addition, you will get hands-on experience during three clinical rotations.
While the courses that you take will vary depending on which school you attend, typical coursework includes:
- Functional Anatomy for the Physical Therapist Assistant
- Basic Skills in Patient Care
- Medical Terminology
- Human Anatomy & Physiology
- Therapeutic Exercise
- Therapeutic Modalities
- Orthopedic Issues
- Pediatric and Neurological Disorders
- Lifespan Physiology
Your clinical rotations will involve working directly with patients for at least 600 hours under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Before being allowed to work in a clinical setting, you will need to show proof that you have had the required vaccinations and undergo a criminal background check.
In addition to working in outpatient clinics, your clinical training may require you to work in a high needs rural clinic and in an in-patient setting such as a hospital rehabilitation center. Your options for clinical training in Nebraska include:
- Hillcrest Physical Therapy – Bellevue
- Immanuel Rehabilitation Clinic – Omaha
- Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital – Lincoln
- Regional West Medical Center – Scottsbluff
- Bryan Health – Lincoln
Step 2. Submit an Application for Certification by Examination
Now that you have your PTA associate’s degree, you must pass two exams to obtain your certification to practice as a physical therapist assistant in Nebraska. They include:
- The National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs – $400 fee
- The NELAW (Jurisprudence) Examination – $50 fee
Your first step toward getting your certification is to submit payment to the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) for your NPTE-PTA and NELAW exams. Immediately after you have submitted your payment online, you will submit your Application for Certification as a Physical Therapist Assistant. You must submit your application at least one month before the registration and payment deadline for the NPTE-PTA.
You will need to provide these supporting documents with your application:
- Proof of age (copy)
- Documentation of US citizenship, lawful presence, and/or immigration status
- List of convictions (if applicable)
You will also have to pay a fee to the Licensure Unit. Typically, your initial application fee will be a check for $90 made payable to the Licensure Unit. However, the fee will be prorated if you apply close to the renewal date for PTA certifications. The expiration date is November 1 of odd-numbered years. If you are within 180 days of this deadline, you only have to pay $25. Send your payment to:
PO Box 94986
Lincoln, NE 68509-4986
You also have to request that your school submit your official transcript directly to the their office. The transcript must show proof of graduation.
Step 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs and the Nebraska Jurisprudence Exam (NELAW)
The Board will review your application and send you a CD of study material for the NELAW exam. Once they have approved your application, the Board will make you eligible to take both exams. They will email you Authorization to Test letters for each exam on the next business day.
Now you can schedule your exams at a Prometric site that is convenient for you. You can find Prometric sites in these cities:
You will schedule your NPTE-PTA and NELAW exams separately. The fee for your NPTE-PTA is $70, while that for your NELAW is $25.
You should study thoroughly for the both exams. The FSBPT provides a candidate handbook for the four-hour, 200-question NPTE-PTA. You should also take advantage of the opportunity to take an online practice exam. These are the topics that will be on this exam:
- Interventions (30.7%)
- Physical Therapy Data Collection (20.7%)
- Safety & Protection; Professional Responsibilities; Research (6%)
- Diseases/Conditions that Impact Effective Treatment (28%)
- Equipment & Devices; Therapeutic Modalities (14.7%)
You need to obtain a scaled score of at least 600 to pass this exam.
You will need to be familiar with a number of aspects of Nebraska law to pass your jurisprudence exam. You should study the Candidate Information Booklet and be familiar with these areas of law:
- Regulations relating to the Practice of Physical Therapy
- Statutes relating to:
- Physical Therapy
- Medical Records
- The Uniform Credentialing Act
- The Uniform Credentialing Act for Mandatory Reporting
You will also need to obtain a score greater than or equal to 600 to pass this exam.
Step 4. Begin your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Nebraska
Once you have passed both exams, you will be notified in writing and will receive your PTA certificate in the mail. You will need to be supervised by a physical therapist licensed in Nebraska to be able to practice.
Now you can start your career as a licensed physical therapist assistant in Nebraska. With 100 hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient clinics, Nebraska offers a number of avenues of employment for you.
A number of facilities were hiring to fill multiple PTA positions in November 2015. This list is informational only, since there is no guarantee that these companies will always be hiring:
- Infinity Rehab – various locations
- Kindred Healthcare, Inc. – various locations
- Life Care Centers of America – Omaha, Elkhorn
- Mary Lanning Healthcare – Hastings
- RehabCare Group, Inc. – various locations
- Genesis Rehab Services – Grand Island, North Platte, Central City
- Bryan Health – Lincoln
You also have the option of working in the independent practice of a licensed PT.
Step 5. Renew your Physical Therapist Assistant Certificate When Required
Your PTA certificate will expire on November 1 of each odd-numbered year. The Department will mail a renewal notice to you at least 30 days before the expiration date. You must fulfill two requirements to be able to renew your certificate.
You need to complete 10 hours of acceptable continuing education during the previous two years. The Department provides a long list of what it considers acceptable in this link. Some of the ways you can obtain your credit include:
- State and National meeting programs that relate to PT
- Formal education courses or presentations
- University sponsored courses relating to PT theory or the clinical application of this theory
- Home study programs related to PT that have a testing mechanism
You can find continuing education activities through these organizations:
An additional requirement is that you complete the Nebraska Law Tutorial. This free online, open book tutorial is meant to ensure that all Nebraska physical therapist assistants understand the state’s Physical Therapy Practice Act and its Regulations, 172 NAC 137.
You must answer all of the questions correctly to pass. It is critical that you include your full name and your certificate number or you will not get credit for passing the tutorial. You must maintain a copy of your tutorial.