There are a number of reasons for the substantial increase in demand for physical therapist assistants in Oklahoma. Chief among them is the fact that the proportion of the state’s residents aged 65 and older has increased substantially, bringing with it an increase in the occurrence of injuries, neurological disorders and other medical conditions that require rehabilitation and therapeutic interventions. Additionally, healthcare practitioners are becoming increasingly aware of the role that physical therapy can play in treating side effects of common medical conditions like diabetes. This has only added to the consistent demand for specialists capable of addressing sports injuries through physical therapy.
More than 900 physical therapist assistants were licensed and employed in Oklahoma as of 2015, and the number is only expected to grow. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission expects the number of licensed PTAs in the state to increase by 37.04% between 2012 and 2022 to keep pace with the growing demand for their support services. This level of growth should generate an average of 70 new jobs for physical therapist assistants each year in Oklahoma.
Physical therapist assistants find employment in Oklahoma’s hospital rehab centers, outpatient clinics, home health agencies, schools, universities and nursing homes, as many are expanding facilities to accommodate the growing demand for PT services. For instance, Drayer Physical Therapy Institute opened up several new locations in 2015 including facilities in Broken Arrow and Skitook. In addition, the Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital in Bethany began a $25 million expansion in 2015 that will allow them to serve as a regional provider of physical therapy services.
Steps to Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Oklahoma
Your career as a physical therapist assistant in Oklahoma starts by qualifying for a license through the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision.
Follow the step-by-step instructions in this simple guide to learn how to become a physical therapist assistant in Oklahoma:
Step 1. Earn an Associate’s Degree in Physical Therapist Assisting
Your first step to becoming a licensed PTA in Oklahoma is to enroll in a school that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and approved by the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision.
Upon completing the program, you will obtain an Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS) in one of the many CAPTE-approved schools located in a number of cities throughout Oklahoma:
- Oklahoma City
Admission can be very competitive, and a number of factors will affect the likelihood of being chosen. The schools will evaluate your ACT scores, grades, and whether or not you have spent time in a clinic observing licensed PTs in practice.
Your education will combine classroom and laboratory coursework, and you will also participate in clinical training in a number of different facilities, from outpatient clinics in urban centers, to inpatient rehab centers in rural hospitals. While your courses will vary depending on which you school you attend, typical courses include:
- Human Anatomy
- Physical Disabilities
- Introduction to Physical Therapy
- Human Physiology
- Physical Therapy Procedures I and II
- Neurology and Pathology
- Therapeutic Exercise I and II
- Medical Office Management
- Psychosocial Aspects of Physical Therapy
You will spend at least 6 weeks of your program in clinical training under the close supervision of training instructors and in the presence of licensed PTs. Most clinics will require you to undergo a background check and a drug test before you can work directly with patients.
Potential sites for clinical training in Oklahoma:
- Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital – Bethany
- INTEGRIS Jim Thorpe Rehabilitation Center – Oklahoma City
- Physical Rehabilitation Center of Tulsa – Tulsa
- John Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation – Tulsa
- Anthony’s Rehabilitation Center – Oklahoma City
- Hillcrest Hospital Claremore – Claremore
Step 2. Submit an Application for Licensure in Oklahoma by Examination
Before becoming a licensed PTA in Oklahoma, you must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs offered through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).
You can even apply to take the NPTE-PTA if you are in your final semester, however, you will need approval from the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure & Supervision. This will require you to fill out the top part of the Examination Form and have your school verify that graduation is imminent. Your school must mail the form directly to the address specified on the form.
You can register for the NPTE-PTA in one of two ways. You can apply online directly to the FSBPT and pay the $400 exam fee or you may submit the application form and fee to the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision along with your online Application for Licensure. You must include a $135 application fee when submitting your application for state licensure.
While your license will by issued by the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision, the Oklahoma Physical Therapy Advisory Committee will first review your application and recommend you for licensure. This Committee meets three times a year, so the length of time it will take to process your application will vary depending on when you apply.
You will have to provide a number of supporting documents along with your application.
Verification of Education – You must submit Form 1, which documents that you obtained your CAPTE-approved degree. You will complete part of the form, and your school will complete the rest. You must attach a true copy of your diploma or explain why you do not have one. You will then have an educator from your school complete the form and impress the school’s seal on the form. If you do not have the seal, you will have to get the statement at the bottom of the form signed and notarized.
Oath and Photo Page – You must sign this form and attach a photograph of yourself taken within the past year. You will need to get the form notarized and have the notary sign partly on the picture and partly on the page.
Background Check Form – You will need to sign an Extended Background Check form that grants authorization for the state to perform a background check on you.
Legal Status Form – You must provide an Evidence of Status Form and documentation that you are a US citizen or are in the country legally.
Sworn Affidavit (as applicable) – If you answered yes to any of a number of questions on the application about your legal background, you will have to write a statement and have your signature notarized. If you have been arrested, you will need to submit copies of your police report or court records. If you previously obtained an assessment for drug or alcohol abuse, you will need to submit copies of your records of assessment and treatment.
Application Instructions – You will need to download the Instructions on Applying and sign the document stating that you have read and understand the instructions. You will also be verifying that you have read the Physical Therapy Practice Act that you received with your application.
When you have assembled all of this information, you can either mail your forms and documents to the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision or drop them off in person.
Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision
PO Box 18256
Oklahoma City, OK 73154-0256
101 NE 51st Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Once you have applied for your license and provided all of the required documents, you have the option of practicing under the supervision of a physical therapist until your license is granted. You must obtain the signature of the supervising PT on the Verification of Supervision—Form 5. If you practice at more than one site, you will need a form from each of the PTs that you will be working with. You will need to wait to start practicing until the Board issues a letter granting you permission to do so.
Step 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs
Once you get approval from the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision, you can prepare to take the NPTE-PTA. You will have to reserve a testing site through the third-party company Prometric and pay an additional fee for this.
Since the exam will take four hours and consist of 200 questions, you should prepare in advance. The FSBPT provides both a candidate handbook and an online practice exam. The exam will include these topics:
- Safety & Protection; Professional Responsibilities; Research (6%)
- Diseases/Conditions that Impact Effective Treatment (28%)
- Equipment & Devices; Therapeutic Modalities (14.7%)
- Physical Therapy Data Collection (20.7%)
- Interventions (30.7%)
You need to obtain a score of at least 600 to pass the NPTE-PTA.
Step 4. Start your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Oklahoma
Now that you have passed the NPTE-PTA, you can start your career as a licensed physical therapist assistant in Oklahoma. You have a variety of options to explore, from Oklahoma’s many hospital inpatient rehab centers, to nursing homes, outpatient clinics, schools, universities and home health agencies located throughout the state.
The facilities shown below were hiring PTAs in Oklahoma during November 2015. While the demand for PTAs should continue to be robust, this list is informational only, since there is no guarantee that these facilities will always be hiring These examples are shown for illustrative purposes only and should not be interpreted as job offers):
- Connect Health Professionals – Shawnee
- Brookhaven Hospital – Tulsa
- Centra Healthcare Solutions – McAlester, Ponca City
- Brookdale – Oklahoma City
- HCR ManorCare – Norman
- Reliant Rehabilitation – Oklahoma City
- Valir Health Care – Oklahoma City
- Norman Specialty Hospital – Norman
- Carter Healthcare – Shawnee
- Select Specialty Hospital – Tulsa
- Supplemental Health Care – Oklahoma City
You also have the option of working in the independent practice of a licensed PT.
Step 5. Renew your Physical Therapist Assistant License Yearly
Your physical therapist assistant license will expire on January 31 of each year. The Board will send you a renewal application form when it is time to renew, so you should keep them informed of any changes in your address.
You should submit your application for renewal before February 1 and pay the $60 fee. If you renew after January 31, you will have to pay $75 instead of $60.
You will need to provide proof of 30 hours of approved continuing education from the previous two years on December 31 of every odd year. If you got your initial license during the second year of the renewal cycle, you are exempt from the continuing education requirement for that cycle.
You can download a list of Approved Continuing Education Courses on the Board’s PT website. The list changes with each renewal cycle, so make sure that you have the most up to date information.
The Board requires some specific types of continuing education. Three hours must contain ethics education of these types:
In addition, at least half of your hours must be in courses that are considered Category A as described in subsection 435:20-9-3(b) in Oklahoma’s Administrative Code.
You must keep the documentation of your participation in continuing education for at least four years.