Health Care

What a ‘Board Certified’ Physical Therapist Means for You

A woman lifting weights while her physical therapist takes notes next to her.
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When they want to take their skills treating athletes to the next level, a physical therapist gets board certified. It’s a way to learn as much as they can about a specific field, like sports medicine, to offer the best care they can to patients.

For Randi Richardson, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, who manages the AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab clinic at the RDV Sportsplex, that meant spending an intense year working in clinics and on the field.

She was already a practicing physical therapist with a doctorate before earning acceptance into her year-long residency program. She knew the extra training would help her with one of the biggest challenges in her field: Helping athletes get back to the top of their game after an injury.

Her patients have challenging needs. Athletes don’t just need to get better enough to walk around and perform daily life tasks; they need to be just as capable in their specific sport as they were, if not more so, than before the injury.

To earn board certification as a Sports Clinical Specialist, Richardson embarked on a year of 80-hour weeks divided between the field and the clinic. Due to the rigors of the residency, which includes four hours of mentoring each week, “many people say a one-year residency is like three to five years of experience,” she says.

As she attended games and treated players, Richardson built her skills in preventing, identifying and treating concussion and other injuries. In the clinic, she helped return them to peak form, both mentally and physically.

An injury can be upsetting to anyone, but may threaten a scholarship or livelihood for an athlete.

“To people who depend on their ability to perform at a high level, the psychological effects of an injury can be debilitating,” she says. “Enlisting the family’s help to keep the athlete in a positive frame of mind to keep making progress is essential to both physical and mental recovery.”

When it comes to AdventHealth physical therapists who have earned board certification, Richardson is far from alone — more than two dozen physical therapists at AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab are board certified.

Board certification is a mark that a physical therapist is committed to advancing both their own skills and the wider knowledge of their field to serve their patients and community at the top of their practice.

What Does ‘Board Certified’ Mean?

A graduate degree, whether a master’s or a doctorate, is now an expectation of a physical therapist before they can become licensed to practice.

Often, the initial education is broad, as a physical therapist must know a lot about a wide range of medical conditions and injuries. That includes mental health, exercise techniques and, especially, the location, function and structure of bones and muscles.

When a physical therapist wants to specialize, a board certification with the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties is the clear choice. A physical therapist has nine specialty choices:

  • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Certified Specialist
  • Clinical Electrophysiologic Certified Specialist
  • Geriatric Certified Specialist
  • Neurologic Certified Specialist
  • Oncology Certified Specialist
  • Orthopedic Certified Specialist
  • Pediatric Certified Specialist
  • Sports Certified Specialist
  • Women’s Health Certified Specialist

After her yearlong residency, Richardson studied for months before sitting for a 250-question exam. The result of her extra training was a newfound confidence in her ability to figure out the best solution to specific, real-world problems for her patients.

“Before I did my residency, I had the big-picture view,” she says. “Now, I feel like I’ve developed my skills more in depth, helping me more efficiently pick just the right exercise or technique to help each patient succeed.”

After she earned her board certification in sports, Richardson decided she wanted to improve her skills to specialize in not only sports, but orthopedics as well, because often the skills are interchangeable between certain populations of patients.

To do that, she sought certification in a second area, orthopedics. The specialty focuses on what’s called “manual therapy,” which means the use of hands-on techniques to create movement or facilitate activation of specific joints.

At the end of her orthopedic training, Richardson found her abilities to treat her patients were more efficient and effective.

Board certification is also a mark of quality recognized by physical therapists around the country.

When she needs to find an effective physical therapist for, say, a college student returning home to their family, Richardson uses a national database of board-certified specialists.

As she earned her board certifications in sports and orthopedics, she repeatedly saw how healing is as much about the mind as the body.

“Athletes need to learn to trust their body before they can put weight on an injured body part, and building their confidence is key to getting them to that point,” Richardson says. “Healing requires treating the whole person, not just an ankle or a knee.”

AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab, which has 30 locations around Central Florida, has 28 board-certified clinical specialists who care for patients with the philosophy that their body and mind are connected.

AdventHealth is committed to promoting excellence by sponsoring an accredited Orthopedic Physical Therapy Residency program. The residency has created a culture of clinical excellence across the AdventHealth Central Florida Division.

Educational requirements for the residency have evolved to include continuing education classes designed for each region of the body. The learning modules are performed monthly and open to all clinical staff to attend.

These classes have increased the skill level and knowledge of all clinicians and serve as study courses to prepare clinicians to become a board certificated specialist

An active physical life is good for the brain and the body. Physical therapy is a great way to prevent and treat injuries that get in the way of what you enjoy.

For more information, call Call833-787-6755 or visit our website.

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