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Olympic College-Poulsbo gets physical

POULSBO — A broken leg, depending on age and severity, takes an average six weeks in a cast to mend, then roughly three weeks of stretching and isometric work to gain its strength back, said local physical therapist Mike Danford.

He and other physical therapists from around the region could be getting an influx of assistance for such cases if a new program at Olympic College-Poulsbo continues to take shape.

“More places are relying on assistants to help physical therapists,” said OC dean for workforce development Mary Garguile. “Not only is there a need for people to fill new openings but also positions that are open because (previous employees) have left or retired.”

In June 2005, the Olympic Health Care Alliance surveyed 12 regional health care providers, which collectively employed 30 physical therapist’s assistants, according to the Olympic Workforce Development Council.

During the next five years, those providers plan to add from 26 to 39 new physical therapy assistants. And they project an expansion of 17 to 23 new positions over the same time period — opening anywhere from 43 to 62 positions.

As a result, Olympic College, in cooperation with Peninsula College in Port Angeles, has begun the process of adding a physical therapist’s assistant program at its Poulsbo campus.

“We’re trying to serve the need in our entire community and through the partnership, we’d hope to serve students who live just over Hood Canal,” Garguile said. “That’s why the Poulsbo location makes so much sense at this time, so we can serve hospitals and clinics up (in) that direction as well.”

Program director Lynn Bartlett started on the project in early 2006 and has now taken on the “lion’s share” of its early development work, Garguile said.

“He was brought on board to bring this new program on line, coordinating everything from obtaining instructional equipment, developing curriculum and scheduling accreditation visits,” said OC-Poulsbo director Kelly Woodward. “And (he) will then teach in the program when students arrive next year.”

The process of constructing a college-level program is both long and involved, Bartlett said, adding that this one is planned to open for students in January 2007.

Currently, Bartlett is working through an intense 30-page accreditation package that will be sent to the American Physical Therapists Association (APTA), which will in turn send a reader-consultant to help guide OC to develop the best possible program.

“The application will (tentatively) be completed by April 1 — part of that is at least outlining curricular development,” Bartlett said, adding that he plans to start actual development in two weeks and devote the entire month of March to curricular construction.

After APTA’s reader consultant and another faculty member for the program — to be hired in the summer — join Bartlett to collaborate on the curricular development, the APTA will come out for an accreditation visit in the fall.

“There are 30 pages of very specific criteria that needs to be met,” Bartlett said, noting that the accreditation process will not finish when the paperwork does. “They will not even consider us to be accredited until we are at a point where we are going to graduate our first class.”

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