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UIndy offers unique brain injury certification to DPT students

Much light has been shed on the impact of brain injuries in recent years from within the NFL and as seen in Concussion, a 2015 movie starring Will Smith exposing the consequences of repeated brain injuries. While impact from contact sports or motor vehicle accidents is one way people incur a concussion or brain injury, the Mayo Clinic says the most common cause is falls from beds, ladders and baths. Those affected with brain injuries need a specialist to guide their recovery.

The Krannert School of Physical Therapy’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) program at the University of Indianapolis now offers a unique opportunity for students to earn the Probationary Certified Brain Injury Specialist (PCBIS) prior to graduation. This certification affords UIndy DPT graduates the opportunity to become a fully Certified Brain Injury Specialist once they complete the 500-observation-hour requirement. They can start on the course while still in school during their clinical rotations. Interested students must take the Neuro Specialty elective course taught by Connie Fiems, PT, MPT, DHSC, who is a CBIS Trainer. After completing the course, they have the option to take the certification exam.

Beth Larson ’17 (DPT) noted that the elective helped her organize her thoughts and treat patients more effectively. “[It] allowed me to me to feel more comfortable and take patients’ rehabilitation process one step at a time.” She also said the course and exam made her realize the significance of interdisciplinary work, especially for patients with acquired or traumatic brain injuries. She hopes potential employers see her PCBIS as evidence of her dedication to the field.

UIndy is the only university offering this opportunity in the state of Indiana. According to Fiems, there are currently 64 CBIS practitioners and 22 with the PCBIS in Indiana, all of whom are from KSPT. Many of those with a PCBIS or CBIS work in acute care, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient neurorehabilitation, and skilled nursing facilities.

Fiems is currently conducting a qualitative study about the benefits of the elective course and PCBIS, and to date it concurs with Larson’s reported increased familiarization with interdisciplinary teams. Other preliminary findings include “developing an advanced skill and knowledge in an area that entry-level education doesn’t typically cover, gaining confidence in their own skills and knowledge as they enter the workforce and gaining credibility with their peers and supervisors when they enter the workforce.”

The CBIS is a multidisciplinary certification, so Fiems hopes to be able to offer the course to students in fields outside of PT as well.

Written by Morgan Benjamin ’21 (DPT)