Board Certifed Clinical Specialist: What Does It Really Mean?

Board Certifed Clinical Specialist: What Does It Really Mean?


When choosing a medical provider many people tend to do a quick internet search of who they are going to see. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the “alphabet soup” of the particular physician, dentist, chiropractor, physical therapist, optometrist, etc that you may be seeking. Degrees, certifications, and specializations are all abbreviated in different ways for various professions--in this article, we will focus on physical therapists.


While obtaining a Doctorate in Physical Therapy can be challenging didactically and clinically across the board, certifications and specializations are not all created equally. A physical therapist can become “certified” or a “specialist” in treating various patient populations through multiple avenues such as residencies, online course work, and weekend continuing education courses. One thing that is consistent in physical therapy is obtaining a “Board Certification.” 


What is “Board Certification?" The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties offers 10 areas of board specialization. “To obtain board certification, candidates must submit evidence of required clinical practice in one of [10] specialty areas: Cardiovascular and Pulmonary, Clinical Electrophysiology, Geriatrics, Neurology, Oncology, Orthopaedics, Pediatrics, Sports, Women's Health Physical Therapy, and [Oncology]. Candidates must also successfully complete a rigorous written examination that demonstrates specialized knowledge and advanced clinical proficiency in a specialty area of physical therapist practice.” (1)


After graduating from physical therapy school and passing the licensure exam, physical therapists have the option to complete a residency in one of the 10 specialty areas. Following the completion of an accredited residency program, clinicians are qualified to sit for a board specialty exam. (You can learn more about residencies in physical therapy by clicking here.) Residency is not a requirement to sit for a board exam, but each specialty does have an extensive list of prerequisites that must be met prior to testing. Residencies usually include these prerequisites and more as a part of each individual curriculum. Board certification in the physical therapy setting indicates that a practitioner has gone above and beyond the minimum standard in a particular specialty by way of extra time, practice, education, and studying on topics and in settings that are oriented towards the specialty. (2)


What is a Board Certified Sports Clinical Specialist (SCS)? A physical therapist who claims the credentials SCS has undergone extensive hours in the clinic covering musculoskeletal issues specific to athletes. In order to sit for the Sports Board Certification exam, clinicians must complete at least 100 hours of shadowing sports medicine and orthopedic physicians and over 200 hours covering acute injuries under the supervision and direction of athletic trainers. Many of these clinicians have also undergone hundreds of hours beyond patient care in completing extra course work (in the classroom and online) and through research on topics specific to sports. 


Why should you see a Board Certified Sports Clinical Specialist? At Physiolete Therapy and Performance, Lauren Buckalew and Nadia Jones are both residency trained Board Certified Sports Clinical Specialists. If you are an athlete or  weekend warrior, Lauren and Nadia are trained to help you “get back in the game.” Sports certified specialists are trained at the forefront to help athletes PREVENT getting injured, so you don’t have to seek a physical therapist with their SCS after you’ve been injured. At Physiolete Therapy and Performance, Lauren and Nadia can help you customize a plan of care that is unique to you and your individualized sports and fitness goals. If you have any questions about injury prevention, performance, physical therapy, and/or functional movement assessments (running, functional fitness, golf, gymnastics) call 205-409-8060 or email [email protected] for more details!