All rehabilitation professionals are required to keep their knowledge and practice of rehabilitation current and—as much as possible—evidence-based. To this end, most seek continuing education as a means to meeting professional requirements and licensure compliance. Among the institutions offering continuing education opportunities for industry professionals is the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Academy (RIC), Chicago, which has been providing CEUs to rehabilitation professionals for 34 years.

What began in the mid 1970s as a sparse offering of interdisciplinary courses has grown to more than 40 instructor-led courses and an offering of more than 20 Internet-based educational courses.


You can wander through the business section of any bookstore and glean from such titles as The Wisdom of Teams, The High Performance Teams, and Working Together that teams are a bit of an obsession with businesses these days.The principles of teamwork have provided a central component for how best to deliver care services from an interdisciplinary team that comprises physician, physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech-language pathologist, rehabilitation nurse, therapeutic recreation specialist, care manager, psychologist, and other supportive players. A focus of the interdisciplinary team has been to discover how to best coordinate and leverage the expertise of its players to reach the goal of improving patients’ lives. Institutions such as RIC provide settings for professional education especially structured for rehab professionals considering expanding their focus on an interdisciplinary approach. Such institutions also provide continuing education courses to physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, nurses, and other rehabilitation professionals that are 2 or 3 days in length. Other courses can last up to 5 days, such as RIC’s annual interdisciplinary courses in brain injury, spinal cord injury, and stroke.


The majority of the Academy’s courses are live, instructor-led programs taught at RIC’s hospital in Chicago, and include an annual interdisciplinary spinal cord course held on campus. This year the spinal cord course focuses on enhancing and enabling function. The 4-day program assembles more than 20 faculty members from both the RIC and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine to address the most current research, technology, and practice related to spinal cord care. Physical and occupational therapists attending the course will receive 18.5 contact hours, and physicians will receive 18.75 AMA PRA Category 1 credits.

The CEU curriculum at RIC also includes an annual course in rehabilitation nursing practice. This 3-day course is structured to provide a comprehensive review of rehabilitation nursing concepts, principles, and interventions, and is intended to help registered nurses who are interested in taking the CRRN certification exam. In addition, the course provides nursing contact hours for continuing education to help meet professional CE requirements.

For the continuing education needs of physicians, each year RIC offers an intensive 4-day review course in electrodiagnosis and clinical neurophysiology to help prepare for the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine Boards.

The Academy also has established a curriculum in neuroscience and cognitive approaches to rehabilitation rooted in leading-edge research and intended to address critical issues connected to rehabilitation medicine. Topics from this curriculum include: Cognitive, Behavioral, and Medical Issues in Brain Injury; Strategies for Improving Cognitive-Linguistic Function in Adults with Dementia; and a neuroscience course on rehabilitation of neurological disorders. A 2-day Pain Conference that will examine critical issues in the use of opioids is scheduled to be hosted during the summer. The event will offer CEU credit to allied health professionals and CME credit to physicians.

Every year a 2-day Rehabilitation Management course, “Managers in Rehabilitation Settings,” is offered. While the featured topics of this course may change from year to year, core topics such as leadership, managing change, and working with people are regular components of the curriculum.


Every Academy interdisciplinary course is taught by a collaborative team of faculty that represents the expertise of the RIC rehabilitation team. Faculty are chosen from among the top knowledge creators and researchers in the field such as Dr Martha Burns, who recently became a Fellow of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA), one of the highest honors bestowed by ASHA.

Timothy C. Hain, MD, who coteaches an Academy vestibular course, has published more than 80 papers and chapters in the area of dizziness.

Courses are chosen for their topical relevance, and programs are drawn from the latest knowledge and evidence in the field. The curriculum is geared for seasoned rehabilitation professionals and designed with creativity and an eye cast on evidence-based approaches. Registration may be conducted via the Internet to allow students to enroll up to 6 months prior to course start dates. Academy figures show the current schedule of courses is attended by more than 2,500 rehabilitation professionals annually.


Offering courses and seminars that provide busy professionals with convenient access to a wide scope of knowledge has been a central objective of the Academy, as it became an early provider of online education in 2001. Over the last 3 years, the Academy moved more fully into e-learning and in 2006 established the Ecademy® to meet the needs of a busy and mobile professional workforce.

Most rehabilitation professionals have indicated they prefer to attend a 2- or 3-day intensive instructor-led course, but do not always find it practical. This is where e-learning or Internet-based programs step in, and allow students to take courses from any location where an Internet connection is available. These courses come in two main flavors, the first of which is a self-paced Web course for which a student registers, pays a fee and takes the course at any time, usually at their own pace. Self-paced courses typically last 1 hour or less and must be completed within 6 months to a year from the time they begin.

The second variety of Web-based education is live courses given over the Internet, sometimes called Webinars. Students sign up for these courses, pay fees, and are e-mailed a log-on and password for the course. The courses are delivered on a specific time and date, when the student logs on and can hear the speaker by audio (over phone or Internet) and can see the speaker’s presentation through an Internet browser. The student can usually interact with the instructor through Instant Message (IM) questions or direct audio over phone or Internet microphone. The Ecademy offers both types of courses. All courses offer CEUs and are a convenient way to incrementally meet professional CEU requirements.

A third way to meet CEUs is through self-study. The Academy has offered educational materials in the form of books, guides, videos, and DVDs to rehabilitation professionals for more than 20 years. All are now available from the Academy Online Bookstore. Some of the most popular items include amputee guides for upper and lower extremities, which many clinics purchase and provide to their patients. Some amputee guides are now available on DVD.


As director of the Academy for the last 4 years, I am still struck by the combination of talents in this organization. The delivery of RIC’s programs to its audiences seems to be underwritten by combining a depth of expertise with a creative approach to thinking about rehabilitation education. What may sustain the success of RIC’s programs may lie not only in the licensure fulfillment opportunities of the CEUs it provides, but in the spirit of innovation with which they are provided.

Daniel J. Taylor, MEd, is the director of Academy Operations and Marketing at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Chicago. He can be reached at .


by Frank Long

There is a shift in the cachet of continuing education programs for physical rehabilitation professionals driven by equal parts Internet technology and evolution playing out at the profession’s entry level. By offering programs that recognize the fluctuating windows of access working professionals have to education opportunities, the University of St Augustine (USA) plays to the strengths of both virtual classrooms and brick and mortar learning environments to provide physical rehabilitation professionals with a path to satisfy licensure.

“Continuing education units are an essential component in making physical therapists competitive,” says Michael Hillyard, DPA, president of USA, who emphasizes that the educational gains PTs reap from continuing education programs extend to professionals working in other health science disciplines that overlap with physical therapy. As specialization settles in all corners of the health sciences, Hillyard points out, PTs must adjust to the opportunities created.

“The more PTs can do to differentiate themselves as experts in a specific area of need, the more the PT profession at large will thrive and the more patients will benefit,” Hillyard says.

The American Physical Therapy Association’s “Vision 2020” plan to install doctors of physical therapy as the recognized providers of physical therapy has helped drive the success of USA’s transitional doctor of physical therapy program. Hillyard says the program has seen great success because students may combine their need for the doctoral credential with their personal desire for continuing education.

Nearly 3,000 professionals choose programs from among USA’s approximately 200 seminars to fulfill their continuing education units (according to USA figures). The popularity of the programs is reflected by a waiting list that routinely queues for its Manual Therapy Certification, as well as a Cranio-mandibular Head, Neck, and Facial Pain course taught by Chilean physical therapist Mariano Rocabado, DPT.

While USA underscores the benefits of attending the staff-taught seminars it conducts in cities throughout the country, the university has been careful to design the convenience of the electronic classroom into the overall architecture of its continuing education programs.

“E-learning has become a widely accepted mode and, in some cases, has outright replaced live classroom instruction in many academic disciplines,” Hillyard says. “However, in PT continuing education, it has been our experience that e-learning, while extremely valuable and capable of supplementing our live classroom experience, does not replace or offer adequate replication for those clinical and scientifically based skills that can be taught, observed, and mastered only in a hands-on, face-to-face learning environment.”

Frank Long is the associate editor of Rehab Management. For more information, contact .