What is the difference with a fellowship trained therapist?
In order to achieve fellowship status, a clinician must spend two to three years working on advanced clinical reasoning and skill training with other highly skilled fellows in the profession. I traveled all over the US to work with some of the best and smartest physical therapists during this process. Only about 1 or 2% of the profession attains the fellow designation in their career, which speaks to the level of effort required to achieve the highest-level designation the physical therapy profession has to offer. We must complete a research project, give several lectures as well as take both written and practical examinations among other requirements in order to complete the comprehensive training process. All this work is done in addition to our regular full time jobs as clinicians, which takes drive and determination.
Research by Rodeghero 2015 indicates fellowship trained therapists on average see patients for fewer visits and achieve greater changes in patient functional status than therapists without this level of training. What this means is patients will return to their desired activities faster, with less pain, and with less healthcare dollars spent. It is difficult to explain the difference in reasoning before and after fellowship to those who have not gone through the process. I would equate it to updating the processing software in your computer. Sure the old one gets the job done, but the new system runs smoother, faster and with fewer errors.
For those who have seen various physical therapists in the past, you are surely aware that not all therapists are created equal. There are many reasons for this, but moving forward in our healthcare system, one should be seeking out those with the highest skill set. Just as many choose MDs based on credentials, the same can be done in the physical therapy profession. All those letters behind our names indicates our continued effort to improve our craft within our profession.