Orthopedic Clinical Specialist Certification

Orthopedic specialists work in rehab facilities, hospitals and other medical centers.

Orthopedic specialists work in rehab facilities, hospitals and other medical centers.

Perhaps you blew out your knee running or need shoulder surgery after many years of playing tennis. Getting back on your feet after an injury requires physical therapy under the care of an orthopedic clinical specialist. A specially trained physical therapist, an orthopedic clinical specialist goes through physical therapy school and earns board certification in orthopedics. The American Board of Physical Therapist Specialties, in conjunction with the American Physical Therapy Association, sponsors the only certifications for orthopedic clinical specialists.

Meet the Requirements

Not just anyone can earn an orthopedic clinical specialist designation. The ABPTS requires candidates to undergo an application process and pay the application and exam fees. Applicants for the orthopedic clinical specialist designation must hold a current physical therapy license from any state. Each candidate must also prove she has experience in one of two ways. Option one requires candidates to have at least 2,000 hours of direct patient care in the last 10 years, with 500 of those hours occurring in the last 3 years. Option two allows applicants who complete an accredited post-professional residency program in orthopedics to qualify without the direct patient hours.

Prep for the Exam

Because the exam represents such a large portion of the certification process, candidates must take the steps to adequately prepare. The ABPTS directs test-takers by offering a number of study and test-prep resources. Test-prep materials include articles of interest, online study plans, testing tutorials, practice tests, sample exam questions, answer strategies and workbooks. The ABPTS also maintains a list of study groups for test-takers to get together to prep for the exam.

Take the Test

Once the candidate feels good and ready, she can schedule and take the 200 multiple-choice question written test. Prometric, a third-party computer testing company, proctors the exam during the first 2 weeks of every March at locations throughout the world. The exam consists of two main parts -- professional responsibilities and knowledge areas and procedures. Topics covered in the exam include patient examination, patient evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment plans, ethics, anatomy and physiology, orthopedic medicine and movement science. The test also covers different parts of the body, including the spine, upper extremities, lower extremities and pelvis.

Maintain Certification

Earning certification does not mean the work is over; certification holders must renew every 10 years. The recertification process includes many of the same requirements as the initial certification, including a valid physical therapy license, current and valid ABPTS certification, reapplication fee and 200 hours of direct patient care experience each year, for a total of 2,000 hours. Each candidate for recertification must choose one of three assessment options to complete the renewal process. Option one is retaking and passing the certification exam, option two requires candidates to submit a professional development portfolio and option three is completing a post-professional clinical residency.

About the Author

Lindsey Thompson began her writing career in 2001. Her work has been published in the Cincinnati Art Museum's "Member Magazine" and "The Ohio Journalist." Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.

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