For practicing PTs, physical therapy continuing education courses (CEUs) are a fact of life. After all, most states require PTs to complete a certain number of CEUs each year in order to retain a license to practice. But just because these courses are mandatory doesn’t mean they also have to be a drag. Good physical therapy CEUs can be both educational and interesting; they also can be really great for your career and your clinic. But the good ones are rarely—if ever—free, which is why it’s especially important to get your money’s worth by selecting courses that will truly differentiate you and your practice. With this in mind, here’s how to select the right PT CEUs:

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Know the rules.

As I mentioned above, most states have specific requirements for CEU completion, so before you dive into selecting CEUs, check in with your state licensing board. According to Courtney Lefferts—the author of this CEU shopping guide—PTs in some states must receive a certain number of credits through accredited associations, courses, programs, and societies (although the remaining credits can be earned via alternative sources, in-services, or videos). Other states require PTs to complete all CEUs in person via approved channels. Regardless of where you practice, though, it’s always your responsibility as the practitioner to know—and abide by—all state rules.

Know your goals.

While you could certainly choose your CEUs willy-nilly, they might not end up being the best use of your time—or your funds. Rather, in this post, doctors of physical therapy Ellen and Stephen Stockhausen “suggest taking courses that are part of a larger clinical reasoning schema,” such as McKenzie, Maitland, or SFMA. “The benefit of these over the random ‘shoulder course’ is that you are taught a framework upon which decisions can be made,” the Stockhausens said. “So even if you forget individual treatment techniques, the groundwork for making the best clinical decisions has already been firmly established.” This is especially important because the couple reported that most clinicians only retain about “10% of what they learn at a weekend course.”

So, how do you identify your personal and clinic-wide education and professional goals? Start by thinking about the future—and asking yourself these questions:

  • What could you study now that would help your patients most in the next few years?
  • What new technique or treatment protocol—one that you really believe in—could you become certified in that would help you differentiate your clinic from others in your area?
  • What part of practicing do you love the most—or what condition or injury do you most enjoy treating? Are there any educational opportunities available that could help you become an expert in your area of choice?
  • What part of your—or your clinic’s—skillset do you feel is lacking? Is there coursework available that could help you fill in those gaps?

Know your options.

Once you’ve established your personal or clinic-wide educational goals, it’s time to start diving into the courses themselves. According to Lefferts, “Once you’ve found a program that piques your interest, [you should] carefully review the:

  • defined course goals,
  • target audience,
  • instructional level,
  • number of CEUs issued,
  • faculty qualifications, and
  • associated fees.”

This will help you determine which courses best align with your overall goals—and CEU-taking strategy. She also suggests querying your peers. After all, first-hand experience is going to be super helpful when it comes to determining which courses will help you win gold—and which ones won’t.

And one more thing: Be sure the courses you take provide learning-based action-items that you can put into practice immediately (like the courses being offered at this year’s Ascend rehab therapy business summit do). That way, you’ll be able to quickly implement what you’ve learned—and make a difference in your practice—which may even help boost the 10% retention rate that the Stockhausens discussed.

Looking for more CEU options? If you’re a WebPT Member, you can purchase CEU courses—both the in-person and online varieties—from top educators at discounted rates in the WebPT Marketplace (that includes courses from Medbridge, which come with the added bonus of 3D models and motion graphics in mobile-friendly formats). The APTA also has a course and conference finder you can use to search for CEUs by topic.

No matter how you go about finding your CEUs, the bottom line is this: don't get CEUs just for the sake of getting CEUs. Instead, make sure you're actually getting something out of these educational opportunities—beyond merely keeping your license, that is.

Do you have any strategies of your own for selecting the right physical therapy CEUs? We—and your fellow PTs—would love to learn them. Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below.

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