Students in the Weatherford College Physical Therapy Assistant program vary in age and come from all walks of life, but there is one thing they all have in common: a desire to help others live a more complete and pain-free life.
At 19, Kassidy Holland is one of the youngest students to be accepted into the PTA program at the WC Education Center at Mineral Wells. Her parents are both nurses and, knowing their daughter’s interests, encouraged her to explore PTA as a career choice while she was a high school student in Early, Texas.
“After observing another PTA, I fell in love with physical therapy,” she said.
Currently, her goals include working in neurology either in pediatrics or with veterans.
“I absolutely love children,” Holland said, “and this summer I was able to work with some veterans and that really sparked my interest.”
Laura Morales, a married mother of four from Lipan, is balancing her personal and academic life to reach her goal of starting an outpatient clinic.
“When I decided to do this program I knew it would require sacrifice,” she said. “I wanted this so much that the sacrifices were worth it.”
Jeremy Veine, of Fort Worth, completed a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology at Midwestern State University before entering the PTA program at WC. He knew during his freshman year at MSU that he wanted to pursue a career in physical therapy.
“The science of the field, being able to use movement/exercise as a medicine to improve somebody’s quality of life has always fascinated me,” Veine said. “I’m incredibly blessed to be able to pursue such a rewarding career that I’m wholeheartedly invested in.”
His career interests include orthopedics, neuro rehab and possibly opening his own clinic – all paths he feels confident in given the foundation he’s gaining in the PTA program.
“The teachers bring a ton of their own personal clinical experiences and wisdom that is as valuable as any textbook,” Veine said. “They really are invested in our success and go out of their way to help us individually.”
That individual attention is especially important given the intensity of the course work. Levine said the amount of information he had to absorb during the first year of the program meant his social life was put on hold.
“It felt like simultaneously the longest year and quickest year of my life,” he said. “But being prepared during the summer clinicals and getting to put some of what I’ve learned into practice made it all worth it.”
Holland said the group of instructors are the best resource of the program as they have all worked in physical therapy and have first-hand experience to share with their students.
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Throughout the course of the two-year program, the students and faculty become a family, Holland said. That includes study groups and after-office hours tutoring from a dedicated staff.
“I have learned what it means to make lifetime bonds with someone,” she said. “I have also learned the value of hard work and how important it is to surround yourself with people who support you.”
Morales echoed the family sentiment, saying her classmates and instructors quickly progress from strangers to family in the matter of weeks.
“I’ve found some of my best friends here,” Morales said. “Learning a new career is hard. It takes so much time and effort, but this program sets you up for success.”
WC PTA Director of Clinical Education Christi Mills is one of the instructors who sets up these students for a successful career.
Her interest in physical therapy was sparked in high school after she required knee surgery followed by several weeks of therapy. After a 32-year career in the clinic and hospital setting, she began guest lecturing at PTA and PT programs.
“Every time I spoke to the students, my passion for the field of physical therapy was rejuvenated as I shared my clinical experiences and stories of patients reaching their goals and getting back to life,” Mills said.
Ultimately, she made the career move from the clinic to the classroom in order to mentor students and contribute her clinical skills and knowledge to the next generation of physical therapy clinicians.
“I want to give back to the profession that has impacted my life in such a positive way,” Mills said. “It is incredibly rewarding when I see and hear the PTA students understand and apply the information that I have taught them. It is a joy to see them passionate about the future of helping their patients through physical therapy.”
For those interested in learning more about the PTA program at Weatherford College, an information session is scheduled for noon Monday, Oct. 22, and noon, Friday, Nov. 30, at the WC Education Center at Mineral Wells.
For more information on the program, visit www.wc.edu/physical-therapist-assistant.
Photo (left to right): Laura Morales, Christi Mills, Kassidy Holland and Jeremy Veine