Meet Lizzie. In 2019, she completed her undergraduate degree in health and human physiology at a large state university in Iowa. She was on track to continue there in a physical therapy graduate program. The only problem? Lizzie was waitlisted for the program.

Determined not to wait another year only to reapply, Lizzie looked into other options. What really mattered to her was starting her career as soon as possible and helping patients feel better. She decided to pursue a physical therapist assistant (PTA) degree. In searching for PTA programs in Iowa, Lizzie found Mercy College of Health Sciences. Shortly after, she began to Chart Her Course.


Lizzie started her journey at Mercy College by directly reaching out to Physical Therapist Assistant Program Chair Sue Bravard, PT, MS. Lizzie felt Sue’s passion for the program during their conversations, and it encouraged her to submit her application to Mercy College. The experience was a departure from the application and enrollment process she had known at other institutions. Before long, Lizzie was enrolled at Mercy College, working toward becoming a PTA — much sooner than if she had reapplied and waited for acceptance at her alma mater.

“The entire process felt a lot more personal. In the past, it felt like I would email one person and meet with another. At Mercy College, I emailed Sue directly, she emailed me back and we met in person,” said Lizzie. “I got the sense that I was going to be in the hands of someone who really cared about my success if I joined this program.”

After their initial meeting, Sue connected Lizzie with the admissions department to finalize her application process. The team helped Lizzie gather all the information and documentation she needed to transfer her credits and start her classes.


Soon after starting the physical therapist assistant program at Mercy College, Lizzie was impressed with the one-on-one attention from the faculty and the hands-on learning opportunities available in the dedicated PTA program lab. There, students had access to all the equipment they needed to connect their lessons to real-life applications. Lab work related directly to the lecture topics, reinforcing important information for Lizzie and her classmates as they learned.

PTA Program Chair Sue Bravard Demonstrating Exercises to Students“We would be sitting in lecture learning about certain joints — like the knee — and everyone would find a partner and literally palpate each other’s knee,” said Lizzie, “It was so nice to be able to transition from the lecture to hands-on practice so seamlessly. Having all the equipment in the room made it all feel really real.”  

Class sizes at Mercy College are smaller than many other PT or PTA programs in Iowa, giving students additional time with the faculty for one-on-one instruction. If Lizzie had chosen a physical therapy program at a large state school, she would likely have been in a much bigger cohort.

“I recognized there was a lot more care and attention given to the smaller group than there could have been if there was a larger group,” Lizzie stated. 


In addition to classroom work, Lizzie and her classmates had clinical experiences that prepared the students to join the workforce. Each experience is designed to give students exposure to the many different opportunities available in the discipline. Students are able to work in clinic and hospital settings under the supervision of professionals, giving them valuable field experiences and patient encounters. Many of these clinical experiences forge professional connections, helping students find meaningful work after graduation.

Lizzie’s final step was to pass the licensure exam for physical therapist assistants. This license is required to work with patients. According to Lizzie, the instructors at Mercy College focused heavily on helping students prepare for the exam. Lizzie and her classmates all passed their boards on the first try. She applied, enrolled and graduated from the PTA program at Mercy College at least a year earlier than she would have if she had put her career on hold and stayed on the waitlist at her previous school. 

After graduation, Lizzie began work in an Alzheimer’s care facility — a role she would not have seen for herself before she enrolled at Mercy College. Now, she is grateful she had the opportunity to explore different specialty fields during her PTA clinical experiences.

“When I took my first clinical rotation at the inpatient rehabilitation hospital, they had a lot of intense neurological cases. Neurology was a really hard subject for me, so I was intimidated,” said Lizzie. “But being in that setting, I realized I do have the skills for this. I was prepared for this. I can do this.”


Lizzie understands students can choose from a number of PTA programs in Iowa, but she hopes they choose Mercy College of Health Sciences.

“If you’re thinking about applying to Mercy College, the application process is easy, the people you’re going to encounter are really friendly, and you’re going to be thankful you took the time now to get started once graduation time comes around,” Lizzie said.

From the personal attention during and after the application process to the class sizes and intensive clinical experiences, Lizzie felt her Mercy College journey was more than worth it. She made the change to Chart Her Course to a rewarding career in physical therapy at a time that worked for her. Will you?