Physical Therapist Assistant Program at OCtech Receives Accreditation, Graduates First Students
Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College’s Physical Therapist Assistant program has become the latest OCtech academic program to receive accreditation.
The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education – the only agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to accredit entry-level physical therapist and physical therapist assistant education programs – announced in April that OCtech’s PTA program has been granted full accreditation.
Twelve individuals comprised the first OCtech class to receive their Associate in Applied Science Degree with a major in Physical Therapist Assistant during Commencement Exercises on May 14. Their next step is to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam before they can begin work in the field.
“PTA is one of the fastest-growing occupations. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a nearly 41 percent increase expected through 2022 in the hiring of PTAs,” said Kay Blackwell, Dean of Health Sciences and Nursing. “We have the distinction of being one of only six accredited PTA programs in the state, so we’re looking forward to it making a positive impact on our community. Our instructors have done a great job. We’re really proud of the program.”
Physical therapist assistants are licensed health care providers who perform selected physical therapy interventions under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist with the goal of preventing or improving the loss of mobility so that people can have more active lives.
PTAs can treat patients in a variety of settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing centers, extended care facilities, sub-acute facilities, home health care agencies, education or research centers, school systems, hospices, corporate or industrial health centers, occupational and workplace environments, athletic facilities, and fitness or sports training centers.
The PTA program is divided into two phases. Phase one encompasses the general education degree requirements, and phase two is split into three semesters – summer, fall and spring – that incorporate all of the PTA coursework. Twenty students are admitted each summer.
“It’s absolutely amazing, just to watch these students grow professionally. They are so excited to learn new skills in the lab and then get to use them in clinical settings with real patients,” said Lynn Fralix, PTA Program Coordinator. “Our 12 graduates are really good students. They will make a difference in the world.”
One of those students is Jamie Sires of Columbia, who received a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from the University of South Carolina before joining OCtech’s PTA program. He said he was drawn to the program for many reasons, including the staff.
“Our professors are top-notch, and they give their all to help us graduate and be the best students and, eventually, the best physical therapist assistant professionals that we can be,” he said. “It is a very tough program, especially with the course load and all of the time it takes to study and prioritize everything. But it was an awesome experience, and it was so good to have my classmates with me. We just pushed through it together, and were able to use each other and help each other get through it.”
Hailey Dantzler of Orangeburg said she knew she wanted to become a physical therapist assistant and being able to earn her degree close to home was a plus.
“Also, I heard good things about the instructors who were going to be over the program,” she said. “We’ve gone through clinicals, we’ve had practicals, we’ve had check-offs that they’ve prepared us with. They were always on top of everything, making sure that we really know what we’re learning, and they want to make sure we know how to do it and how to do it well.”
For more information about the PTA program at OCtech, visit www.octech.edu or call Fralix at 803-535-1305.