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Educating Future Rehabilitation Professionals

Matt Davis | Guest Blog Post Series, Healthcare Administrators, Healthcare Information, Physician Recruiting

The 85 and older population segment is the fastest-growing segment in the United States and is predicted to triple by 2050. 

This aging population is more susceptible to neurological and cardiovascular conditions that call for intensive rehabilitation.  This is increasing the need for the number of rehabilitation professionals seeing patients.

While retaining rehabilitation professionals is more important than ever, there is an equally if not a more pressing issue at hand.  The education of future rehabilitation professionals is proving more difficult than ever before. 

Dr. Christopher Ray, Texas Woman’s University Dean of College of Health Sciences, discusses the challenges facing the rehabilitation field today.

Our Conversation with Dr. Ray

AMP:  What are the primary challenges you face in educating future rehabilitation professionals?

Dr. Ray:  We face several challenges and pressures in preparing students for entry into the rehabilitation profession. While the occupational and academic demand is great for individuals highly trained in this area, particularly in Texas, we face a shortage of credentialed and qualified faculty to train them.

It is also increasingly difficult to find clinical placements for students to acquire contact hours with clients prior to certification testing. We are fortunate to have internationally recognized faculty with specialized expertise as well as strong partnerships with clinical sites to mitigate these challenges.

AMP:  What are the needed credentials of faculty?

Dr. Ray:  The credentials for faculty in rehabilitation sciences is somewhat similar to other health care professions. Faculty must be experienced clinicians and hold a Ph.D. in their area of specialty. They engage in scientific and applied research, and many are required to maintain their license to practice.

AMP:  What types of scientific and applied research occur in rehabilitation science programs?

Dr. Ray:  Our faculty are world renowned for their research. We have faculty that examine various rehabilitation strategies from cradle to grave, as well as faculty that specialize in stroke recovery, autism, sensory processing disorders, Parkinson’s Disease, end-of-life care, therapeutic arts, adapted rehabilitative therapy, and fall prevention in older adults.

We also have faculty who have developed mobile applications for individuals to ensure safety upon returning home after an injury and faculty who train parents on creating sensory friendly environments for their autistic children.

TWU student helping another student in a wheelchair right herself. College of Health Sciences

AMP:  How do you incorporate industry trends in to your teaching?

Dr. Ray:  Again, we are fortunate to have world-class clinicians and scientists on our faculty who literally set the standards for rehabilitation sciences curriculum in the nation. Because our faculty are innovative and at the forefront of clinical education, they regularly engage our students in industry trends through classroom exposure and engagement in research.

AMP:  What recommendations do you have for someone interested in pursuing a career in rehabilitation science?

Dr. Ray:  They want to plan ahead, and they should gain as many clinical observation hours and as much academic preparation as possible. I also suggest individuals read about areas of specialty and develop a network of rehabilitation professionals who are willing to serve as mentors as they pursue and advance their respective careers.

AMP’s Viewpoint

We greatly appreciate Dr. Ray taking the time to provide his professional insight around the academic training of rehabilitation professionals today.

There is no doubt the demand for rehabilitation professionals is growing.  If you find yourself in need of rehabilitation providers, if you have not already, develop relationships with local and regional academic institutions that can serve as a feeder into your program.  If your need is too urgent to wait, Adaptive can help.

Just as students need clinical observation hours, you need them once they graduate and are ready to join the world of rehab. There may be no better recruiting tool than having an excellent relationship with academic institutions.

Dr. Ray’s Bio

Dr. Christopher T. Ray has served as Dean of the College of Health Sciences for 3 years. Formerly the associate dean for research in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), Dr. Ray directed UTA’s Postural Control Laboratory and Center for Healthy Living and Longevity. He has more than 19 years of leadership experience in research development and academic affairs.

As a leading expert on geriatric health, Dr. Ray focuses his research on new ways to reduce falls, increase bone density, and lessen the impact of chronic disease. He is active in professional associations, serves as a review panelist for the National Institutes of Health, and is a member of the 2018-19 Texas Governor’s Executive Development Program.

As an innovative and trusted institutional leader, Dr. Ray has spearheaded the expansion of research in the college, led the enhancement of applied learning opportunities for students, and capitalized on the many synergies across all three TWU campuses.  As Dean, he oversees five departments, two schools, and five on-site clinics across three campus as well as the North Central Area Health Education Center.

Dr. Ray holds a doctorate degree in movement studies from the University of Georgia and earned both a masters (in human performance and sport studies) and bachelor’s degree (in exercise science) from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He conducted his post-doctoral fellowship work at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Atlanta, which included a summer institute in epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Washington.