Rhode Island provides a great environment in which to become a physical therapist assistant, offering both strong job prospects and rising salaries. The state’s largest employer, Lifespan Hospital group, is also the largest employer of PTAs, providing an entry-level path for freshly licensed physical therapist assistants and long-term career options for more experienced PTAs.
Other employers in Rhode Island are also competing for talented newly licensed PTAs as the demand for physical therapy services increases dramatically in the state. This can be seen in the 4.1 percent rise in median income for PTAs between 2014 and 2015. According to the US Department of Labor, the highest paid PTAs in Rhode Island earn $71,900 a year or more, almost three times the average U.S. income in 2014.
Steps to Becoming a Physical Therapist in Rhode Island
Becoming a PTA in Rhode Island starts by earning a license through the Rhode Island Department of Health. The Rhode Island Board of Physical Therapy is responsible for establishing PTA licensing requirements and determining the eligibility of licensure applicants, while the Department of Health issues the license and acts as the regulatory authority in the state. Follow the steps in this guide to learn how to become a physical therapist assistant in Rhode Island.
Step 1. Graduate from a CAPTE-Accredited Physical Therapist Assistant Program
The Rhode Island Department of Health Requires all PTA licensure candidates to graduate from an institution accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
Degree titles include:
- Associate in Applied Science in Physical Therapist Assistant (AAS)
- Associate in Applied Physical Therapist Assistant (AS)
There are accredited CAPTE physical therapist assistant schools in Rhode Island, located in these cities:
- East Greenwich
There is a full list of CAPTE-accredited schools in Rhode Island available on the CAPTE website.
Through classroom based study, instructor-led laboratory training and clinical internships, your program will cover a wide array of subjects that will prepare you for a career in physical therapy. Topics will include:
- Behavioral Sciences
- Medical Terminology
Your internship will provide you with real-world experience and communication skills that can only be learned by interacting directly with patients and physical therapists in the field. The length of your clinical experience may vary depending on the institution, but some require as much as 40 hours a week for 6 weeks. Your school will assist you in finding an internship in your area, but facilities that have worked with PTA interns before include:
- Brookdale Senior Living Inc. -Lincoln
- Concord Health Services Inc.- Cranston
- MTX Therapy Services- Middletown
- Hasbro Children’s Hospital- Providence
Step 2. Apply for PTA Licensure in Rhode Island by Examination
Once you have completed the necessary credit hours for your physical therapist assistant program, you may apply for licensure. At this time, you will also register for the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for PTAs through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). Even though you will register for the exam while initiating the licensing process, you must await approval from the Rhode Island Board of Physical Therapy before taking it.
Your application for licensure must be submitted to the Rhode Island Department of Health at least 30 days prior to the date you have schedules to take the exam.
Submit your completed application along with:
- Proof of your birth record, naturalization papers, or of legal entry into the U.S. for non-citizens
- A passport type photograph
- Transcripts from your PTA program
- A $50 non-refundable application fee
If you are applying and have already attained licensure in a different state, you will need a statement from the Board of Physical Therapy in the state from which you received your initial license.
All materials should be sent to the following address:
Rhode Island Department of Health
3 Capitol Hill, Room 104
Providence, RI 02908
Once materials are sent, it will take 4-6 weeks for the Board to review your application and grant approval for you to take the NPTE-PTA.
Step 3. Schedule and Take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for PTAs
You will need to schedule to take the exam through the third-party exam proctoring service, Prometric. The one Prometric exam center in Rhode Island is located at:
2346 Post Rd # 104
Warwick, RI 02886
The test covers a wide array of topics you should be well versed in by the time you complete your PTA program. The exam is composed of 200 questions (50 of which are not scored) covering a wide variety of subjects including:
- Physical Therapy Data Collection
- Diseases and Conditions
- Equipment and Devices
- Therapeutic Modalities
- Safety and Protection
The percentages vary from version to version, but over 80 percent of the exam is made up of questions from the data collection, diseases and conditions, and interventions categories. The test was developed and is maintained by the FSBPT.
A detailed outline of the exam’s content and a practice exam is available through the Federation of Sate Boards of Physical Therapy. For $99 you will have access to the practice exam for 60 days and can pay $50 for every additional 15 days you need access.
While many states also require a jurisprudence exam, the Rhode Island Board of Physical Therapy does not list it as a requirement for licensure.
Step 4. Begin your Career as a Physical Therapist Assistant in Rhode Island
After passing the exam and receiving your license from the Rhode Island Department of Health, you may begin exploring available PTAs jobs through the many employers in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island may be small, but it is not lacking in opportunities for physical therapist assistants. The state’s largest employer is the Lifespan Hospital Group, a collective of hospitals that provides the vast majority of health services for the people of Rhode Island. All of their hospitals have physical therapy programs and employ PTAs. While these hospitals are not the only option, the Lifespan network is home to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, one of the highest quality children’s cancer treatment centers in the country. It also partners with Brown University to provide opportunity to Brown students during school and after graduation. Working alongside either of these institutions gives PTAs an opportunity to join in some of the most progressive work being done in the medical field today. Lifespan hospitals include:
- Rhode Island Hospital, Providence
- The Miriam Hospital, Providence
- Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Providence
- Bradley Hospital, Riverside
- Newport Hospital, Newport
Outside of the Lifespan hospital group, some of the state’s top PTA employers are:
- Kent Hospital, Warwick
- Silk Physical Therapy Center, Providence
- Encore Rehabilitation Services, Pawtucket
- CBS Therapy, Cranston
- Genesis Rehabilitation Services, Middletown
- Rehabcare Group, Pawtucket
Step 5. Participate in Continuing Education and Renew your License
You must renew your Rhode Island PTA license once every year. The Rhode Island Board of Physical Therapy will send a reminder to all license holders on the first of March each year.
At this time, you are required to present proof of 24 hours of continued education completed before March 31 of the renewal year. Activities that count as continued education include:
- Coursework from an accredited institution including online and self-study courses. (1 hour per hour of coursework completed)
- Teaching or clinical supervision of PTA students as a part of an APTA program (maximum of 3 hours)
All activities need to be approved by the Rhode Island Board of Physical Therapy. It is the responsibility of the applicant to obtain proof of their continued education. While it is not necessary to submit any documentation when renewing licensure, the licensee is required to maintain documentation for 4 years. During that period, those documents may be the subject of a random audit by the Rhode Island Board of Physical Therapy.