A Women's Health Clinical Specialist (WCS) is a licensed physical therapist who:
- Has proven they have the knowledge, skill, and experience exceeding that of the physical therapist at entry to the profession and unique to the area of women's health practice by successfully passing the Women's Health Clinical Specialist Examination
- Is certified in Women's Health Physical Therapy by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS)
- Has completed a minimum of 2000 hours of women's health clinical practice, 25% of which has been in the last 3 years OR has successfully completed an APTA-credentialed post professional clinical residency that has a curriculum plan reflective of the Description of Specialty Practice: Women's Health Physical Therapy (DSP).
- While working with female clients, has demonstrated competency in:
Professional Practice Expectations
- Professional Responsibilities
- Risk Management
- Professional Development
- Evidence Based Practice
- Participation in Professional Organizations
- Social Responsibility
- Roles in Women's health Physical Therapy Care Settings
- Prevention/Wellness/Health Promotion
- History and systems review
- Tests and measures
- Intervention, Coordination, Communication
- Patient/Client related instruction
- Procedural interventions
- Outcomes assessment
For more information about the Women's Health Specialist Certification click here.
To begin your application process:
Secure all application materials from American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) by visiting this link and clicking on "Application and Info: Women's Health". Review requirements thoroughly. This includes documentation of clinical hours and a case study. The annual application deadline is July 1.
- Review the practice questions provided and consider how best to study for questions that are worded in multiple choice style where many of the choices will be true and you must determine the most true or the most correct response.
- Ensure that you have enough clinical hours in the specialty to sit for the women's health exam which will be available:
February 26- March 12, 2011
February 25 - March 10, 2012
- Request the Description of Specialty Practice (DSP). The DSP represents a description of current advanced PT practice and serves as the basis for the specialist certification exam. It comes with a self-assessment tool that helps to determine your readiness to take the exam. The DSP and self-assessment are provided free when you apply to take the exam. If you have not yet applied and wish to purchase them ahead of time, they can be ordered through the APTA Service Center at 800/999-2782 x3395, or by visiting the APTA on-line store.
Suggestions for Preparing for the WCS Exam
- Evaluate the time you will need to prepare for the certification exam. Six months is most likely the minimum one should consider though everyone learns at different paces; this is a recommendation only.
- Schedule a set number of hours each day or week to specifically study evidenced-based literature and recommended texts.
- Evaluate and treat as many female patient/clients with varying diagnoses in your setting.
- Observe in as many women's health treatment settings as possible to have first-hand knowledge of the types of patients/clients and diagnoses treated by a women's health physical therapist.
- Find a mentor. Someone who is also actively preparing for the women's health specialist exam or who is a certified specialist in another area and is willing to share knowledge, materials, and time with you as well as to provide insight on how best to prepare for the examination.
- Become a member of the Section on Women's Health to begin receiving the peer-reviewed Journal of Women's Health Physical Therapy and other resources that are produced by the Section.
- Check on the website www.womenshealthapta.org to review old issues of the Journal as well as be directed to the body of evidenced-based research currently available from APTA.
- Investigate and enroll in current continuing education courses available at the Section's web site. Consider the certificate of achievement (CAPP) process offered by the SOWH.
- Consider enrolling in an APTA approved Women's Health Clinical Residency Program.
- Purchase and study Home Study courses produced by the Section on Women's Health. These courses give a breadth and depth of a variety of settings and diagnoses in which women's health PTs currently work.
- Attend the APTA Combined Sections Meetings to become immersed in the field attending courses, studying posters, visiting the booth, talking to authors and authorities in the field, and receive first-hand experience with the many therapists who have experience in the areas of women's health PT.
- Though the certification exam is heavily weighted in clinical practice, there may be questions related to health care policy, public health knowledge, management principles, etc. It is best to keep a broad perspective in these areas as this represents national viewpoints and not individual carrier or fiscal intermediary policies. Therefore, we suggest the best resource for policy learning and understanding Medicare implications is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). There are multiple self-paced, self-learning modules available at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/medlearn/ Since Medicaid is different state to state, questions will not be reflective of issues related to this type of public programming.
- Carefully choose continuing education courses. Though many advertise as women's health courses, one must make sure that the techniques and learning presented actually represent evidence-based care versus novel concepts and or unproven, complementary-type treatment approaches.
- If you are interested in a study group for Specialization, please contact your SoWH Regional Representative
Frequently Asked Questions Related to the WCS Exam
How do I record the hours of training, is there a format?
Use the form that is given in the examination application. This form gives instructions for how to record your hours.
I am unable to find some of the recommended readings; can you direct me?
The recommended reading list is intended as a guide. Not everyone will be able to find all the listed readings. You may want to do your literature review search to find similar articles. Some suggestions for locating as many of the listed readings as possible include:
- Check with your state licensing board; some states will allow you to apply for library privileges similar to P.T. program faculty members or allied health/medical students.
- PT programs local to you may allow you to apply for "clinical faculty" or "adjunct faculty" member positions if you serve as a clinical instructor or assist in teaching courses for their school.
- Check with your facility's learning center or library. Librarians are very helpful in locating difficult to find articles.
- If your facility does not subscribe to a journal, you may be able to obtain the article by purchasing it.
- Join a study group. Others in the group may be able to obtain articles that you cannot obtain, and vice versa.
- Search for articles on the internet. Some are available for free or for purchase on the web.
- Utilize reliable websites for additional information. For example, the American Cancer Society website gives detailed information related to breast cancer. The National Osteoporosis Foundation website details many aspects of osteoporosis.
What benefit is there for sitting for the exam?
- Improved clinical outcomes and performance, including ability to manage complex patients, more efficient patient management, and more effective non-patient roles.
- Referral from P.T. to P.T. is more likely to occur toward a board specialized therapist.
- Confirmation and recognition of your abilities amongst your peers as a specialized Physical Therapist through APTA's certification board.
- "Board specialization" is a term common to other health care areas, such as for physicians. Thus, board specialization such as WCS offers a readily recognizable form of credentialing.
- Increases marketability of your skills and programs.
- Some employers offer salary increases for board specialization (check with your employer).
- Increase in potential for non-financial rewards, such as promotions or increase in responsibility.
- Improves your desirability as a potential employee.
- For additional information, visit APTA's website at this link:
I do not have anyone who lives near me to be in a face-to-face study group. Do you have suggestions for long-distance study groups?
- You may utilize contacts you have made with other P.T.'s sitting for the exam, perhaps persons you have met at continuing educational courses, professional meetings, or have communicated personally with through the list-serves.
- Set a schedule from the start that determines which topics to cover during which weeks. Determining a set day/time each week is also helpful. Plan to allot 1-2 hours for each meeting.
- Assign a "discussion leader" for each topic from the group; take turns.
- The discussion leader may want to be in charge of creating a topic summary document to share with the group, either prior to or after each meeting.
- Meet using conference calls and / or online video conferencing. (Example, Skype or other web cam programs.)
- The examination application packet gives additional guidelines on studying and preparation
Section on Women's Health WCS Resource List
A recommended reading list has been created by experts within the SOWH to help you prepare for the Women's Health Specialist Examination. You can access the reading list here.