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ATPs wanted: 'There's more urgency'

ATPs wanted: 'There's more urgency'

YARMOUTH, Maine - It's become an age-old question in the complex rehab industry: How does it recruit more ATPs?

But things went from a simmer to a boil recently when a survey conducted by the University of Pittsburgh and NCART showed that nearly 25% of ATPs could retire in the next five years, exacerbating an already tight market for certified professionals in wheeled seating and mobility.

“It's not like this is a brand new issue,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. “There's been discussion around this for many years and some programs developed to help resolve it, but when you see the numbers, it quantifies the issue and there's more urgency.”

Right off the bat, stakeholders say they need to do a better job raising awareness that the ATP is even an option—and for a wide variety of people at that.

“People don't even know that this profession exists—so many people get introduced to it accidentally,” said Weesie Walker, executive director of NRRTS and an ATP/SMS. “It doesn't really matter what your background is. If you have technical skills, you have the ability to enter this profession.”

While it's an option for a wide variety of people, there are eligibility requirements for the ATP exam that can make it difficult to obtain the certification, stakeholders acknowledge. If you have only a high school degree, for example, you need 6,000 hours of experience.

“I got an email from a NRRTS registrant just last week who was wondering how he could get that much experience,” Walker said. “The person has to be willing to take a lesser paying job to get the experience and their employer has to give them the opportunity to get that experience, and then they have to take the ATP exam. It can be a huge barrier.”

Education is a big part of NRRTS's mission and Walker says the organization, which is an accredited provider for the International Association for Continuing Education and Training, is in the midst of trying to figure out how it can better flex these muscles to help potential ATPs meet requirements.

“Michele Gunn (an ATP at Browning's Health Care) calls it the farm,” she said. “We don't have a farm anywhere to raise them. We have education and webinars, but we'd have to create a more stringent program that's accredited.”

There may be barriers to becoming an ATP, but those that commit to it find it very rewarding, stakeholders say.

“That's why so many of us are hooked on it,” she said. “We'll probably drop dead with an Allen wrench in our hand.”


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