A new partnership to develop specialized physical therapists brings a higher level of prestige to a well-established university program.

The Scottsdale Healthcare/Northern Arizona University Residency in Neurologic Physical Therapy opens the way for mentors to interact with already talented and highly trained graduates to speed their time to a valued credential.

“The residency is a way for an expert clinician to work with a new graduate or other novice clinician to develop clinical skills and provide immediate feedback,” said NAU’s Kathleen Ganley, program director of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus Department of Physical Therapy and director of the residency program.

Ultimately, the goal is for the resident to earn the credential “neurological clinical specialist,” which often takes years in the profession. Physical therapists with this expertise work primarily with patients rehabilitating from stroke, Parkinson’s or vestibular disorders.

“People who complete an approved neuro-residency can sit for the credentialing exam much earlier in their career,” Ganley said. “The hope is that the program will expedite the process of developing specialized knowledge and skills.”

The neurologic residency becomes one of only 25 American Physical Therapy Association credentialed programs in the nation, and the only one in Arizona. NAU also plays a leadership role in a national consortium that coordinates resources to ensure high-quality residency programs.

“Scottsdale Healthcare is thrilled to partner with Northern Arizona University to provide our neurological residents with top-notch didactic education to complement the clinical mentorship,” said Matthew Schroeder, supervisor of outpatient therapy services and coordinator of the residency program. “Partnering with NAU gives our residents access to additional opportunities and resources.”

Two residents completed the program while it was in the process of being credentialed, Ganley said. The current resident is Ashley Jones, who performed her graduate work at the Mayo Clinic.

“I’m excited about building confidence as a neuro-therapist and building relationships with people in the field for lifelong contacts and connections,” Jones said.

While still in school, Jones said she began exploring residency programs that would allow her to specialize in the neurological field. The Scottsdale Healthcare/Northern Arizona University program appealed to her because of the options it offers.

“I can tailor the program to my needs,” Jones said. In addition to the mentorship, she has opportunities to assist instructors in the physical therapy program, pursue community involvement, or serve as an instructor for students’ clinical rotations.

The same approach applies to working with neurologic patients, Jones said.

“Each patient presents differently, so you have to tailor your approach to fit their needs regardless of the diagnosis,” Jones said. “I like that you have to think on your feet and be creative as a neuro-therapist.”