What is the Value of a GCS?
Somehow this week during all the normal chaos of life I managed a major accomplishment. I completed and mailed my registration to sit for the GCS exam next year. I'm very proud of myself. Completing the application isn't very difficulty. Making the commitment to study and prepare for the test is. The application is only the first part of the process. Once it is processed I will receive information on the test itself and scheduling a time at the computer center where I will take it. It still isn't real to me. I won't finish school until early January so I want to take the exam in March. Maybe when it gets closer I'll feel more anxious.
I was telling a non-PT friend of mine about the exam. Her first question was how much more money would I be making? The second was would it get me a better job? My friend works in the world of computers. Where she works each certification is worth additional salary. Promotions are based partially on specific skills and certifications. In her world having a geriatric specialist certification and a DPT would be worth a promotion and salary increase. Saying she was flabbergasted when I told neither my pay nor position would change with the credentials would be an understatement. She didn't understand why I would go to the expense and effort to get those if it wouldn't help me professionally.
I welcomed my friend to the world of PT. In my world knowing more, having advanced skills or credentials or advanced education doesn't translate into more money. Unless the advanced education is managerial it usually doesn't translate into a promotion. It does earn the respect of your peers. Sometimes it earns the respect of physicians. But making more money isn't likely to happen.
It isn't the profession of PT. The push toward a doctoring profession with equal standing to medical doctors is proof of that. So is the drive toward direct access. The difficulty lies with the healthcare industry. In the eyes of those who control the money there is no added value to having a DPT instead of a PT. With the possible exception of some specialty OP clinics having a specialty certification doesn't make you more desirable to an employer. The same applies to experience. At least in Houston employers would rather hire a new grad than an experienced therapist because the new grad makes less money. That doesn't mean the department doesn't want the experienced, specialized therapist. It means the facility won't hire that person.
And that's not going to change anytime soon. I don't know of one facility in Houston that will pay licensure. The company I work for will pay it as well as provide some continuing education money. The catch is a lower salary. PTs and PTAs need licenses to practice. If a facility isn't willing to pay for that, it isn't likely to pay higher salaries for certifications and the like. As far as management is concerned a PT is a PT. That PT completes X amount of treatments each day and costs Y amount of dollars. Meanwhile the facility gets paid Z amount of dollars. Since you can't change the amount of work a PT can do and you can't change the amount of reimbursement you obviously pay as little as possible to make a profit. Nowhere in that equation are the variables of skill (diagnostic, technical or specialization), knowledge or the ability to accept more responsibility as well as pt. care. I guess those things don't have a dollar value.
I didn't really have a good answer for my friend. Because I want to or I felt I needed to sounded lame. My next goal is to sit for the NCS in a few years. I know my treatments and POCs will be improved with advanced knowledge. I know my patients will benefit. I might be able to teach some of my co-workers a few things. Beyond that I don't have an answer equal to I will make more money. Eventually the APTA will have to address this. A significant amount of time and money goes into sitting for those exams. Passing one of them would create a sense of satisfaction and affirmation of knowledge. It would be nice if the recognition was shared by other healthcare disciplines. Sure I would like to make more money but it isn't necessary. I would be happy if my GCS or NCS was valued by the healthcare community as within the PT community.