VA recently implemented its largest rehabilitation education expansion ever, adding 42 new physical therapy (PT) residency and occupational therapy (OT) fellowship programs.

The expansion will provide advanced training for high-demand specialized health professions trainees (HPT) in these disciplines to meet the complex needs of Veterans for generations to come.

It also brings 15 new OT fellowship programs and 27 new PT residency programs to 24 VA medical centers over the next three years, improving access to specialized rehabilitation therapies for Veterans.

The expansion is overseen by VA’s Office of Academic Affiliations.

Doubling the number of trainees

Forty-seven new trainee positions (33 PT and 14 OT) will be added, giving opportunities for double the current number of trainees in these roles.

These post graduate training programs will be accredited and will serve to provide a pipeline of highly skilled OT and PT professionals for VA’s health care workforce.

“Our Veterans deal with a lot or orthopedic injuries, chronic pain and neurological conditions, such as traumatic brain injury,” says VA Chief Academic Affiliations Officer Dr. Marjorie A. Bowman. “As they age, the need for rehabilitation services, particularly in areas such as geriatrics and spinal cord injury, is increasing significantly, so it’s critical we train these therapists with advanced skills to care for them.”

Creating a path for future VA employees

The OT and PT programs help trainees like former Assistive Technology Fellow Lauren Yacks hone skills that often lead to a career path within VA.

Yacks, with VA’s Office of Rural Health, says the highlight of her fellowship was helping a Veteran with declining mobility set up a home automation system, allowing him to remain more independent and in his own home.

“I just absolutely love getting the chance to work with our Veterans,” Yacks said. “I think they are a very unique group of people and they teach me probably more everyday than I could ever teach them.”

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