The world needs more clinicians who can treat pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence, diastasis recti, and the many other conditions that constitute pelvic floor/pelvic girdle dysfunction. Most clinicians who specialize in pelvic rehabilitation are Physical Therapists (PT) or Occupational Therapists (OT), though other licenses also allow you to work with patients who have pelvic floor dysfunction. Many doctors, nurses, and internationally licensed medical professionals are beginning to explore the field of pelvic rehabilitation.
In an interview for the Pelvic Rehab Report, faculty and instructor Tiffany Ellsworth Lee MA, OTR, BCB-PMD, PRPC, shared that "Occupational therapists wishing to pursue pelvic floor have a few options. The first thing is to find a pelvic floor clinical setting...or check to see if they can start a women's health program with a strong focus on the pelvic floor. OTs quite often do not start out in pelvic health directly after school. Since this is a newer area as compared to other certifications such as the NDT and PNF, it takes a little bit of research, time, and effort to find one’s exact niche. To get started, an OT should seek out courses that teach the basics of bladder and bowel management. It is important to understand the anatomy and physiology of the bladder, bowel, and sexual systems."
Once you have a license to practice, you can start learning to specialize in pelvic rehabilitation. The best place to start is with the H&W Pelvic Floor Level 1 satellite lab course, which offers immediately applicable clinical skills for evaluating and treating urinary incontinence or the musculoskeletal components of urogynecologic pain syndromes. Most practitioners who take Pelvic Floor 1 return to study in the next courses in the series.
You can learn all about the colorectal system, and how to treat conditions such as coccyx pain, pudendal neuralgia, and male pelvic pain in the Pelvic Floor 2A course, and in Pelvic Floor 2B you can expand your knowledge in topics such as movement assessment and re-training, prolapse, and pelvic pain. Then in the Pelvic Floor Capstone course, the final advanced course, you dive deep into topics such as hormones and their influence on conditions, surgeries and recovery, and skilled manual therapy techniques. Once you know your patient demographic, you can check out our growing list of specialty courses that include series topics including yoga, oncology, pregnancy, fascial mobilization, and much more.
Once you have gained experience in the field, you may consider sitting for the Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification (PRPC). This certification recognizes expertise in pelvic rehabilitation for patients of all genders throughout the lifecycle. To be eligible to sit for the exam, applicants must have completed 2000 licensed hours of direct pelvic patient care in the past eight years, 500 of which must have been in the last two years.
The following is our interview with Jennifer Eller, PT, DPT, PRPC. Jenni recently passed the Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification (PRPC) exam. She practices at Enloe Medical Center in Chico, CA and is a Teaching Assistant for local California satellite courses with H&W. Jenni was kind enough to share some thoughts about her career with us. Thank you, Jenni - and congratulations on receiving your PRPC!
Q: Who are you? Describe your clinical practice.
A: My name is Jenni Eller, and I am a pelvic floor physical therapist at Enloe Rehabilitation Center (hospital-based outpatient clinic) in Chico, CA. I specialize in pelvic floor, orthopedic, and oncological diagnoses. Specifically, conditions related to incontinence, pelvic pain, dyspareunia, vaginismus, interstitial cystitis, and the post-surgical pelvis, as well as pelvic floor issues, post-oncological treatment pelvic floor issues, pre and postnatal issues, male pelvic floor dysfunction, and other pelvic floor dysfunctions.
Q: How did you get involved in the pelvic rehabilitation field, and what has your educational journey as a pelvic rehab therapist looked like?
A: I grew up in Oregon and Washington, and completed my undergraduate degree in Exercise Science at Linfield College in 2009. I completed my Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy at Regis University in Denver, CO in 2013.
After graduate school, I worked in a small rehabilitation hospital but quickly transitioned to outpatient rehabilitation and started working with the orthopedic and oncological patient population. The hospital system I was in had hired 3 new gynecology oncologists and were interested in developing the pelvic health program there. I started my training for pelvic floor physical therapy with Herman and Wallace in 2015. I have completed the Herman and Wallace Pelvic Floor series in 2017 and passed the Pelvic Rehabilitation Practitioner Certification in May 2021.
Q: What patient population do you find most rewarding in treating and why?
A: Over the past 6 years, I have enjoyed helping both women and men with issues related to their pelvic floor, connecting it to their spine, hip, abdominal, and lower extremity issues. I help them return to an active lifestyle and feel empowered over something so limiting and invisible to others.
Patients with pelvic floor dysfunction are often overlooked because their symptoms are too sensitive to speak about. I truly believe they deserve the best care possible and am grateful to be part of a team that focuses on patient-centered care. Treating both pelvic floor dysfunction and the oncological patient population benefits under-served patient populations. Both demographics have my heart for personal reasons. I always knew I wanted to help those who are in need able to get much support.
Q: What has been your favorite Herman & Wallace Course and why?
A: I have enjoyed the whole pelvic floor series, but Pelvic Floor Level 1 and Level 2B, taught by Tina Allen and Holly Tanner, were so great! These courses just inspired me to give my full attention to pelvic health. They are easy to learn from and full of so much knowledge.
Q: What is in store for you in the future as a clinician?
A: Right now, I am focused on building the pelvic health program in this smaller northern California city and hopefully bringing more providers to serve this community. I have a dream of teaching in the future and helping build the next generation of physical therapists and pelvic floor physical therapists.