Students are doing everything they can to equip themselves best with continuing education opportunities to not only widen their skill set, but also to have that competitive and unique edge on their resume or CV.

With a field growing faster than most physical therapy programs can keep up with, ambitious students are hungry to learn things that are more applicable to their interests as a clinician. My colleague Cameron does a good job explaining why it is important to consider taking continuing education as a student.

These are the following questions I ask myself. I feel they can be universally asked to every graduate student looking into continuing education. I don’t like telling people what to do or how they should go about their decision making. I do however like to provide open ended conversation and ideas that they may pick up for their own purposes.

What is my goal and purpose to take this course?

We all get caught up into trendy things. New modalities and gadgets come and go (and are replicated). People get infatuated and swear by them, while others feel that they wasted their money. Do your research.

  • Is there sound research that back up this course’s efficacy for PT?

    • Just because the theory makes sense and checks out, there should be some body of evidence proving the technique's efficacy. The program will always cherry pick articles to provide support to their claim, but it is up to you to determine the validity and quality of the evidence cited.

  • Who is teaching the course, are there other teachers that other people may recommend?

    • Learning can be augmented by who teaches it. A clinician I observed hinted at the fact that I should consider taking courses from a certain clinician rather than another because of his teaching style and the extra clinical gems he provides.

  • Who will I find at this course?

    • Attending a course doesn’t have to be only to learn new information. Use it as an opportunity to get out into your community and network with other individuals who are willing to spend their weekend improving their craft.

Will I actually find use for this?

One of the better ways of encoding new information is applying it as soon as you can. Many of these continuing education courses provide you a boat load of information within a small period of time. It is important to have time to digest the information and apply it as soon as possible in the clinical setting.

  • When is the next time I can apply this?

    • Many courses will teach you certain techniques that combine to form an entire intervention and theory. Could you perhaps apply this to your next affiliation in a couple of months or would you be just practicing on able bodied fellow classmates?

  • During this opportunity will I have a chance to use it?

    • If you plan on using this during an affiliation, how much time do you have to implement it and will your CI be on board with your actions? This is crucial because as we all know our clinical instructors quality is a crap shoot. This is where strong evidence can help your case in implementing this during your affiliation.

Is it worth it?

Cool! They have a student discount. What does that mean? This is the tough part in discerning whether or not it is worth it to take this course now rather than later as a licensed physical therapist. First research all of the financial options and make sure you know if you have the cheapest option as a student.

  • Could I be spending this money better on something else?

    • You may have a long list of continuing education courses that you want to take. Where does this current course sit on that list in terms of utility and cost? You may fare off better saving your continuing education dollars on something like this year's Combined Sections Meeting where you can get a wide range of topics with less information to get exposed to more information.

  • Is there a cheaper course that offers the same thing?

    • Many courses revamp other ideas and slap their name on it. Have you looked at all the different versions of IASTM and it’s tools?

  • Will I take more from this course if I had clinical experience?

    • Some courses may have more resonance if the participant is familiar with a certain patient population. It would help to connect certain patient profiles to the information provided during the course.

  • Are there already free resources that I could use to see if I actually like what they will teach?

    • The internet provides infinite amount of information. Your university also hopefully provides you a great database for research. It may be worth reading up on the available material before jumping into a course, you may find out that the course isn’t what you thought it was going to be.

These are questions I ask myself before I choose any continuing education course. You may very well be left with more questions than answers after this all, but the decision you'll make will be more informed and well thought out. Everyone has a unique preference and will feel differently about each continuing education course; however it is objectively clear that it is foolish to throw money into something that you haven’t taken the time to thoroughly consider.

Feel free to email me what you think!



Disclaimer: I do not own the rights of the images. Source: Lucasfilm, StarWars Disney