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Carrington College Blog

PTA Grad ’14 Gets 800/800 – Meet Michael Cariño

August 23, 2014

Michael Cariño - PTA GraduateMichael Cariño, 29, graduated from the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program at the Las Vegas campus in May. He received the Distinguished Graduate Award and Award for Merit.

In July Michael passed the National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE) PTA with a perfect score, and a week later moved back home to the Bay Area in California.

So it’s been a busy couple of months for you Michael.

Yes, it has. Straight studying for a couple of months, then I took my Boards [National Physical Therapist Examination PTA board exam] and then, boom, back to California within a week!

Tell me more about that perfect score.

It was on the NPTE for PTA, which is the physical therapist assistant licensing exam. You need a score of 600 to pass, and I got 800/800. I’m the first person from Carrington, and also the first in Nevada from what I understand, to get a perfect score on that test.

I bet your folks were proud.

My mom and dad have been very supportive, as have my three siblings; they’ve been there for me the whole way. They were really excited about my Carrington graduation, they all came out to Las Vegas when I walked the stage in June. When they found out about the perfect score on my NPTA PTA licensing exam, they were ecstatic.

With a perfect score it seems to be a good fit, but why did you choose to be a Physical Therapist Assistant?

I’ve always been very active; I like running, I played volleyball in high school, and I’ve always been into weightlifting, so I guess the body just interests me. How it works, and sometimes how it doesn’t work.

It’s actually something that I’ve been working towards for a while; I already have a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from San Francisco State University. I originally wanted to pursue a career in personal training and open up my own gym, but when I finished my undergrad I had the opportunity to work as a physical therapist technician in San Mateo, CA.

I worked as a tech for a year; I found it very interesting. I’d been more into performance enhancement before, but when I got to see the rehab side, that really grabbed my interest.

So you just moved back to California, what took you to Las Vegas in 2012?

My girlfriend Francille and I have been together since high school. She graduated nursing school as a registered nurse (RN) a couple of years ago; she applied for a job at a hospital in Las Vegas, as she has family out there, and hadn’t had any luck getting a position here.

She got a two year contract, so we moved to Nevada which prompted me to look for a PTA school out there. I chose the PTA program at Carrington. It was a two year program, so I finished school just as her contract ended. I had a job offer in Las Vegas, but Francille got an offer she could not refuse; she started as an RN in a Progressive Care Unit in San Jose this month.

So you’ve moved back home?

Yes, temporarily! We’re back at my parents’ house until I get my PTA license transferred*, but once that comes through, and I’ve taken the CA jurisprudence exam, we’ll probably move out towards San Jose, where Francille is working. I’ll look for a job over there.

What made the biggest impact on you in your time at Carrington?

We had a great PTA faculty in Las Vegas; we had three Doctors of Physical Therapy as teachers, and we had one PTA. They were kind of hard on us, but I liked the individual, personalized attention we were able to get in a small cohort, as opposed to hundreds of students in a class during my undergrad.

The teachers’ experience definitely had a big impact on my education, and on my success. They’ve been through it too; they’ve had to take the Board exam, go through all the clinical. It wasn’t someone with a different degree teaching anatomy or something like that. When people have ‘been there and done it’, it gives you a greater level of respect.

What was the most interesting thing you learned at Carrington?

Already having my bachelor’s degree, I’d always been really interested in outpatient work which involves bringing athletes and regular people back to, or as close to, their prior level of function as possible.

But what I really enjoyed was inpatient work; working with patients who have had a stroke or a brain injury. I actually found that more challenging; now I want to work in an inpatient setting.

What the most valuable thing you learned about yourself at Carrington?

I learned a lot actually; above all I learned a great deal of patience and how to deal with different types of people and patients.

So already having the kinesiology background, it was learning the soft skills that helped you?

Yes, very much so. I got to improve my bedside manner, I guess. I learned how to be empathetic and to help patients get back to wherever they need to be. It was also about self-improvement in general, I like learning which is a good thing in this field with all the continuing education we have to do.

Is your goal to become a licensed physical therapist?

Yes, it is. Physical therapist programs are now all doctorates – a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). I definitely want to pursue that once I have built up some experience in the field.

So where do you want to be in three years?

In three years I hope to be working per diem somewhere, while doing a DPT program. I hope to find a school here in the Bay Area; there are a couple, but it’s very competitive. We’ll see what happens.

So what about your long term career plan?

Long term it would be nice to have my own PT clinic, but that’s a way off yet. Short-term, the plan is to get some PTA experience, get into a grad school to earn my DPT, and then work somewhere as a physical therapist… before opening my own clinic somewhere some day!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My girlfriend and I are both into the same stuff. In summer, we love hanging out at the beach. During winter we love to go snowboarding; we used to go up to Lake Tahoe a lot but haven’t been in nearly three years. There’s no snow in Las Vegas!


*Carrington College prepares you to work in your chosen field in the state where you graduate; we cannot guarantee that your license will successfully transfer to another state. Licensing is the responsibility of the state board or licensing authority in your field. Contact the licensing authority in the jurisdiction in which you want to practice for the most up-to-date information on licensure requirements.


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