Thursday, July 20, 2017

The plight of the foreign Physical Therapist in the United States

It is a known fact that the U.S. population is getting older, and the demand for services to an aging population is increasing with every passing year in the country. Physical Therapy is among such services, meaning that the demand for these professionals is increasing all over the country. Job surveys and lists of future good careers generally include physical therapy, for the very same reasons stated. However, U.S. physical therapy graduates are not keeping up with the demand, which means that foreign physical therapists are being called to fill the gap.

The first step for a foreign physical therapist is getting a degree validation from specialized agencies such as FCCPT and ICA, which analyze the transcripts, degrees and syllabi and issue opinions which are widely recognized as authoritative. From that point on, it is up to individual state regulatory and licensing agencies to approve the applications or require the applicant to obtain more credits. So it is a good idea for the foreign physical therapist to find out which agencies are acceptable to the regulatory agency of the state where he or she lives, or intends to live in. NACES members, for instance, might be accepted in one state, not the other.


For physical therapists from countries such as Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India, and countries that issue syllabus in English, things can be easier, for their academic documentation does not require translation. That is not the case of documentation of physical therapists from other countries. While translating transcripts, diplomas and certificates is not very expensive, course outlines, or syllabus are long documents that can run from a few dozen pages to over 400.

U.S. university syllabus are generally very concise documents, in fact, sometimes each subject can be summarized in a single paragraph in the most extreme situations. That is not the case of syllabi from a number of countries, where even a single subject can run over 10 pages.

A quick search for translations on the internet returns a number of companies with flashy and modern looking websites that provide “per page” pricing that, at first, seem to be a good deal. A lot of these companies are Silicon Valley startups which are, in general, unfamiliar with the specifics of translation work, in spite of their claims, and are based on marketing strategies and technological platforms which not always favor the client. These “per page” prices can range anywhere from US$ 19.95 to US$ 33.00 a page.

However, before even considering hiring such companies, one must look closely into such price structures for a very long document. The per page price does not mean pages with unlimited number of words, you will soon find out. In fact, the advertiser that charges US$ 19.95 a page defines a page, in very small print, as having 100 words. However, most document pages have way more than 100 words, and many syllabus pages have more than 500 words. Other companies define a page as having 250 words, and change pricing to per word after the threshold is met. This means that a lot of the syllabus pages do not even qualify for the seemingly low “per page” price. When the maximum threshold is exceeded, these companies normally charge between US$0.10 to US$0.12 a word. Yet, they still charge the “per page” price for pages with little text. So, a 400 page course outline, not uncommon, can cost a very hefty US$12,000.00 or even more.

The fact is that the vast majority of translation companies and individual translators in the U.S.A. are not familiar with the validation and evaluation process, so they price the entire document, which is a waste of your time and money, and makes the evaluator’s job much more difficult.  Far from the author suggesting these companies do this because they want to deceive and overcharge - I would say it is sheer ignorance.

So the best  alternative is seeking a specialist, such as Legal Translation Systems, which is located in the Miami area and has been doing this specific work since the 80’s. “Evaluators seek specific information on a syllabus, and a lot of it can be omitted. When we price a job, we only include the information required by the evaluators, who appreciate our effort. Recently, a client was quoted US$8,000.00 by a major Miami translation company, we did it for only US$3,200.00,” says Celia Pieroni, a manager. Pieroni also says that “physical therapy syllabi translations have to be prepared by an experienced translator, because the originals often have dozens to hundreds of mistakes, so the translator has to be very familiar with the specific terminology and make adjustments.”
The downside is Legal Translation Systems is a boutique company, which does all work in-house so it is limited to translating documents from Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian. If your document is written in a different language, such as German and Dutch, you have a long process ahead of you. I suggest you visit the American Translators Association website for translators of other languages. Look for science or medical translation specialists.

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