CULLOWHEE – For the second consecutive year, Western Carolina University’s master’s degree program in physical therapy has earned a perfect score on the profession’s national licensing examination, with 100 percent of test-takers from Western’s program passing on their first attempt.
Physical therapy students at work
North Carolina physical therapy program pass rates on the National Physical Therapy Examination were recently announced by state board official Ben F. Massey Jr., who also serves as president of the American Physical Therapy Association.

“As executive director of the North Carolina Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, I extend my congratulations to Western Carolina University for achieving a 100 percent passing rate on the NPTE for the past two years,” Massey said.

The perfect score on the NPTE by members of Western’s 2002 graduating class in physical therapy surpassed both the state pass rate of 89.74 percent and the national average of 88.96 percent, said Karen Lunnen, head of WCU’s department of physical therapy. For Western’s class of 2001, the 100 percent pass rate exceeded the state figure of 89.39 percent and the national rate of 91.12 percent, Lunnen said.

“We are extremely proud of the outstanding performance turned in by our students on their licensure exams,” she said. “This is further proof that the health care agencies that provided the initial seed money to help get this program started made a very wise investment.”

Hospitals and health care providers from as far west as Murphy and as far east as Hickory pledged some $337,000 in 1996 to help meet start-up expenses for Western’s master’s degree program in physical therapy. Those hospitals also have hosted the graduate students during the clinical education phase of their training, and representatives of many of the agencies serve on the program’s advisory board.

The hospitals’ investments also are paying off in another way, Lunnen said, as many of the health care agencies have employed Western graduates. “One of the reasons for starting a physical therapy program in this part of the state was because of the shortage of physical therapists,” she said. “For example, WestCare hired three from our first graduating class, and has hired an additional four since.”

More than 40 alumni from the program have found work in their professions in Western North Carolina since the program’s first graduating class in 1998. They are employed in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, sports medicine clinics, wellness centers, nursing homes and school systems in Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Mitchell, Rutherford, Surry, Swain, Wilkes and Yancey counties and on the Qualla Boundary of the Cherokee Indians.

WCU graduates also are employed at facilities across the state, and in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, New York, Maine, California, Washington, Arizona and Alaska.

Hospitals providing support to Western’s physical therapy program are Mission-St. Joseph’s Health System and Thoms Rehabilitation Hospital, Asheville; Transylvania Community Hospital, Brevard; Haywood County Hospital, Clyde; St. Luke’s Hospital, Columbus; Sloop Memorial Hospital, Crossnore; Park Ridge Hospital, Fletcher; Pardee Memorial Hospital, Hendersonville; Catawba Memorial Hospital and Frye Regional Medical Center, Hickory; Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, Highlands; Caldwell Memorial Hospital, Lenoir; Grace Hospital, Morganton; Murphy Medical Center, Murphy; Harris Regional Hospital, Sylva; and Valdese General Hospital, Valdese.

Other good news about the physical therapy program came recently as the university was notified that the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education of the American Physical Association has reaccredited its program.

For more information about Western’s program in physical therapy, call (828) 227-7070, or click on the Web at www.wcu.edu/aps/pt.

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Last modified: Thursday, May 8, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Western Carolina University