Ep. 175 – How to prepare for the ABPTS oncology exam

Episode graphic: Ep. 175: How to prepare for the ABPTS oncology exam.  TheOncoPT Podcast.  Headshot of Dr. Elise K. Cantu, PT.  Background image of brown-haired woman with white mug in hands, sitting behind silver microphone.

The ABPTS (American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties) oncology exam is an amazing opportunity to deepen your knowledge of oncologic physical therapy, but it’s not for everybody. In fact, there’s some very important reasons why you shouldn’t take the exam.

Today, we’re exploring why you should or should not take the ABPTS Exam, plus the steps needed to apply for the exam.

In contrast to other exams (like our PT licensure exam), you need to submit certain documents before you can actually take the test itself. You must submit a case report and your application, both of which can be a strenuous process. 

It is not my intention to discourage you from taking the exam, but rather to help you decide if this is the right next step for you and your practice. Even though I am pro-exam, I believe you need to ensure that you are approaching the process with the right mindset. The process is not for everyone. 

Why you should NOT take the exam

The following are some reasons why you might not want to take the ABPTS oncology exam. One of them is that you want more letters after your name. At the time this episode was recorded, you no longer receive any additional letters, and it’s not sufficient motivation for you to devote your time to this process. 

Do you think passing the exam will increase your salary? There might be institutions that pay you more for this additional certification, but I have not personally seen it. But maybe in the future this will change, but right now you will be disappointed by not getting the raise you desire (& deserve) from this certification. 

My least favorite reason I see people taking the exam is that they see everyone else doing it. You need to make your own decision. Consider what’s best for you. The exam is not easy, and you should be sure you are pursuing it for the right reasons.

Why you should consider taking the exam

On the other hand, there’s some really good reasons to take the ABPTS oncology exam. You might find this exam process useful if you wish to gain a deeper understanding of oncological physical therapy. This increased my knowledge of cancer and cancer treatments in ways I would not have been able to achieve in working with patients alone. I believe it saved me time and led me to where I am today.

The second reason is that you want to serve your patients with cancer in a more comprehensive way.  Again, because of the knowledge I gained from taking the exam I am able to better serve this patient population. It has been very helpful in my practice. It has allowed me to advance the standard of excellence in cancer rehab, and now help others getting into this field.

How to apply for the oncology exam

Once you have determined whether the exam is right for you, you need to take the first step in applying for it. This requires that you be a licensed physical therapist. You will then need to submit an application to ABPTS once you have become a licensed physical therapist.

ABPTS requires that you have at least 2,000 hours of direct patient care or have completed a residency in oncologic physical therapy within the last 10 years. Be sure that your employer is aware of your plans, as they may need to assist with some documentation in order for your application to be approved. Like I mentioned, this is a large undertaking, and you must be sure you are committed to completing it.

You also must have a case report submitted and approved before you can take your exam. This report demonstrates that you have practice in oncologic physical therapy and shows your understanding of the population. This is where some people get turned off of the process, but it is a requirement to sit for the exam. 

If you are considering applying for the examination, I encourage you to join us during my upcoming webinar in order to help you get started on the right foot. Register for my webinar on April 20th, Start Your ABPTS Oncology Application on the Right Foot BY CLICKING HERE 

Exam Preparation Resources

Start Your ABPTS Oncology Application on the Right Foot

Specialization Preparation Resources

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