May 24, 2018 – In response to an overwhelming regional need, Florida Southern Collegeis launching a new doctor of physical therapy program that will supply highly trained physical therapists to healthcare facilities in central Florida and beyond each year.
Pending its candidacy with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), the new program will begin its first classes in the fall of 2019. Applications will be accepted starting in June 2018. The doctor of physical therapy program will accept up to 36 students in each class, who will complete the course of study in 2½ years, including 36 weeks of clinical experiences.
Although students will perform their clinical rotations throughout the United States, local sites will include Watson Clinic and Lakeland Regional Health. Students and faculty will also provide pro bono services to underserved populations, as well as provide community outreach in education and screenings.
The founding program director and dean of the School of Physical Therapy is Dr. Nancy A. Nuzzo, who came to Florida Southern after starting the physical therapy program at the University of Jamestown in Fargo, N.D. Dr. Nuzzo has over 25 years of experience in the field of physical therapy and has been teaching for 20 of those years while practicing as a physical therapist.
The program will be strategically housed in the former location of the Lakeland Association of Realtors in the Dixieland Historic District on South Florida Avenue. The renovation of the 6,500-square-foot office building will include a new 11,000-square-foot addition.
Physical therapists are movement experts who treat people of all ages and abilities, helping them improve and maintain function and quality of life. Graduates of this program are considered clinical doctors similar to physicians, dentists and podiatrists and provide services in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, outpatients and inpatients clinics, home health agencies and nursing and assisted living facilities.
The decision to start the program was made recently by the college’s Board of Trustees following an extensive needs assessment study, said Dr. Kyle Fedler, FSC’s provost. Among its findings, the study reported:
- The number of physical therapists nationwide is projected to increase 28 percent over the next eight years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- According to the Florida Hospital Association, physical therapist positions take longer to fill than any other health-related field with 60 percent of positions requiring at least 61 days to fill.
- Polk County has the fourth lowest physical therapist distribution per 100,000 in central Florida despite having the fourth highest county population in the region, and only Sarasota County approaches the national average of physical therapist distribution.
“We believe this program will be a public service to Polk County and central Florida,” Dr. Fedler said. “Just as our School of Nursing and Health Sciences has supplied high-quality nurses to serve the healthcare needs of this region, the doctor of physical therapy program will fill a critical need as this region continues to expand.”