Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Therapist Professional Advisory Committee

Pathways

Officer Career Pathway Document

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Introduction

The purpose of this document is to provide general guidance through career pathways designed for therapists in either clinical or non-traditional billets. Through this document the officer can identify and assess his/her needs, and how to meet them in order to achieve career goals.

The officer may be wondering who is going to help them, and how can they reach these goals in a timely manner? Making a career as a commissioned officer takes a lot of effort, an effort that cannot be done alone, but it is ultimately the officer's responsibility! As an officer reviews this document he/she will find links to career relevant documents and websites that will assist him/her in identifying the means to pursue career options, and who can help.

Career Self Assessment

Reflection

  • Why did I choose Therapy as a profession?
  • What skills do I bring to Therapy and to the Public Health Service?
  • What do I find rewarding about my current position and what are its drawbacks?
  • Is there any direction to my career and am I directing it?

Assessment

Clinical Professional Readiness

Officer Deployment Readiness

Planning

Investigate Positions / Opportunities

Tools to facilitate career development

  • Professional Clinical Associations
  • OCCO developed handout
  • Mentoring resources are available to assist you in planning your career from the TPAC, senior PHS officers, the Chief Professional Officer, and programs within your Professional Associations.

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Therapist Career Pathways

Available Career Tracks

Clinical/Clinical Management

Many PHS Operating Divisions offer opportunities for career growth within the clinical arena. This area encompasses professional activities that relate directly to patient treatment ranging from hands on care to consultation and/or guidance of other patient care staff. Clinically focussed programs may include IHS, BOP, NIH, National Hansen's Disease Programs (NHDP), and USCG.

Epidemiology/Public Health Practice

Epidemiology and public health practice involve the study, analysis, and/or recommendation of health measures based upon the incidence, distribution, and control of disease in a population. Relevant programs may include the FDA and CDC.

International Health

International health activities in the PHS focus on the influence of the global health environment on the PHS domestic mission. Relevant programs include the CDC.

Program Management

Program management/administration encompasses the control of the day to day operation of Agency programs requiring planning, development, budgeting, assessment, supervision, and/or coordination. Relevant programs may include CMS, FDA, CDC, NIH, HRSA, SAMHSA, BOP, and IHS.

Regulatory Affairs

PHS Therapists assigned to regulatory OpDivs participate in activities related to implementing, enforcing, controlling, directing, evaluating/inspecting, developing policy and/or regulations designed to safeguard public health. Relevant regulatory programs include FDA.

Research

PHS Therapists participate in and conduct many types of scientific research and reviews. Research in the PHS usually involves either investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery of new knowledge for the revision of existing theories or the development of new theories related to public health (basic research), or investigation or experimentation aimed at evaluating or mitigating potential risks to public health (applied research). Programs with research activities include FDA, CDC, NIH, and NHDP.

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Therapist Career Pathway Examples

Clinical Pathways

Non-Traditional Billets

Note: The above are not all inclusive, but represent positions where other therapists have been assigned in the past.

IHS Therapist Assignments

Notes:

  1. Information in the table below was taken from the Commission Corps Management Information System (MIS) website. The GS equivalent is a guide and may vary by facility and service unit.
  2. Billet information is listed as "Physical Therapy" in OCCO documentation, but is interchangeable with Audiology, Occupational, and Speech and Language Pathology Therapy. In the following IHS Chart, the CS Series is simply listed as "Therapist".
Billet Grade Title CS Series Billet Career Track Primary Job GS Equivalent
O-7 Therapy Program Director (Large) Therapist General Duty Program Management / Core Management Management Senior Executive Service
O-6 Area / Regional Program Director Therapist General Duty Program Management and Technical Assistance Technical Assistance and Consulting GS-14/15
O-6 Therapy Program Director (Small) Therapist General Duty Program Management, Policy Development, and Planning Planning GS-14/15
O-6 Chief Therapist Therapist General Duty Clinical Management Management GS-14/15
O-6 Clinical Specialist Therapist General Duty Clinical Practice and Consultation Clinical Practice, Counseling and Ancillary Med GS-14/15
O-5 Chief Therapist Therapist General Duty Clinical Practice and Consultation Clinical Practice, Counseling and Ancillary Med GS-13
O-5 Research Therapist Therapist General Duty Epidemiology / Public Health / Teaching Research GS-13
O-5 Clinical Specialist Therapist General Duty Clinical Practice and Consultation Clinical Practice, Counseling and Ancillary Med GS-13
O-5 Deputy Chief Therapist Therapist General Duty Clinical Practice and Consultation Clinical Practice, Counseling and Ancillary Med GS-13
O-4 Senior Therapist Therapist General Duty Clinical Practice and Consultation Clinical Practice, Counseling and Ancillary Med GS-12
O-3 Staff Therapist Therapist General Duty Clinical Practice and Consultation Clinical Practice, Counseling and Ancillary Med GS-9/11
O-2 Therapist Therapist General Duty Clinical Practice and Consultation Clinical Practice, Counseling and Ancillary Med GS-7
O-1 Therapist Officer Senior COSTEP Therapist Senior COSTEP Clinical Practice and Consultation Extramural Training GS-5
O-1 Therapist Officer Junior COSTEP Therapist Junior COSTEP Clinical Practice and Consultation Intramural Training GS-5

Sample IHS Position Descriptions

07 Therapy Program Director

Responsible for the establishment of agency/bureau therapy program goals and objectives to include development, coordination, implementation and evaluation of an overall therapy program plan. Serve as principal advisor to the agency/bureau director or administrator in matters pertaining to all aspects of therapy services. Represent director/administrator on committees, category selection boards and perform other duties as assigned. Function independently to assure planning, development, implementation, and evaluation of vital aspects of therapy program including health promotion, disease prevention, continuing education, career development, and quality assurance. Serve as primary consultant to area/regional therapy consultants/chiefs. Responsible for reviewing area/regional programs to assure that the quality of services meets established PHS standards. Resolve critical problems that may arise within the therapy program and/or related agency/bureau programs. Judgment failure can cause serious impairment to administration and professional delivery of therapy services on a national scope. Establish and maintain contacts with persons in other federal departments (i.e., outside agency to which assigned) or outside the Federal government such as local, state, and national groups, organizations, and governmental bodies. The purpose of contacts is to explain, coordinate, interpret, and seek support for policies, procedures, plans, and programs, or individual actions, often of a controversial and complex nature, which require tact and a strong knowledge base. Perform other duties or agency/PHS-specific activities as assigned.

06 Chief Therapist

Responsible for providing clinical therapy services as well as supervision of the department. Develop programs to resolve complex clinical issues. Collaborate with other interdisciplinary health care personnel to resolve patient-related issues. Provide patient care as needed to maintain professional clinical skills. Provide consultation to regional medical facilities to insure follow-up treatment, discharge planning, pre-admission processing and other services as needed. Supervise therapy diagnostic screening programs. Develop, revise, and implement department policies and procedures. Identify, evaluate, and justify existing and projected departmental needs for space, manpower, and delivery of services. Prepare and justify budget for department supply, equipment, and staffing needs. Direct, supervise and evaluate professional and support staff. Direct patient assessment and treatment planning. Coordinate therapy services with other interdisciplinary health personnel. Develop quality assurance programs and evaluates the quality of patient care provided by the therapy department. Plan and coordinate education programs for students/interns, as well as in-service programs for therapy staff, medical staff, and other interdisciplinary health care personnel. Plan and coordinate preventive and educational programs for patients and family. Develop health promotion programs. Design, coordinate, and participate in, and/or supervise clinical research (supportive, collaborative, and/or independent) and/or other special studies. Develop program to respond to priorities established by agency/PHS level/legislative mandate, etc. Advise the hospital administration and area/regional therapy consultant on all aspects of therapy service. Perform other duties or agency/PHS-specific activities as assigned.

05 Deputy Chief Therapist

Responsible for providing clinical therapy services as well as supervising the operation of the department. Spend a significant amount of time on supervisory, management, specialty, and research activities. Serve as a resource person in at least one clinical specialty practice area. Provide therapy consultation services to medical staff, consultants, and other medical care personnel. Supervise quality assurance and health promotion programs. Direct and supervise professional staff. Provide guidance to professional staff on patient assessment and treatment planning. Direct in-service, staff orientation and therapy student/intern training program. Collaborate with chief therapist on performance evaluation of professional and support staff. Assume duties of chief therapist as appropriate. Design, implement, participate, and/or supervise clinical research (supportive, collaborative, and/or independent) and/or other special studies. Perform other duties or agency/PHS-specific activities as assigned.

04 Senior Therapist

Assess patient, identify therapy diagnosis, and formulate therapy treatment plan and goals. Plan, design, implement, supervise, and modify therapy program for each patient. Develop, implement, and conduct patient education and therapy programs based on patient and/or family needs. Responsible for discharge planning with the patient, family, and other health care personnel. Develop and coordinate team approach to resolve complex clinical problems. Responsible for provision of therapy consultation services to medical staff, consultants, and other interdisciplinary health care personnel. Conduct quality assurance reviews and health promotion programs. Direct and supervise work of professional/support staff. Serve as preceptor for COSTEPs and students/interns. Assign workload, supervise treatment, and ensure quality patient care. Implement and supervise in-service, staff orientation, and therapy student/internship programs. Assist senior staff in administrative matters and specialty/research areas as appropriate. Initiate and develop a research and specialization interest. Maintain knowledge of therapy procedures and techniques to improve clinical service by participating in continuing education, in-service, etc. Perform other duties or agency/PHS-specific activities as assigned.

03 Staff Therapist

Assess patient, identify therapy diagnosis, and formulate therapy treatment goal and plan. Plan, design, implement, supervise, and modify therapy program for each patient. Develop, implement, and conduct patient education and therapy programs based on patient and/or family needs. Participate in discharge planning with patient, family, and other health care personnel. Provide therapy consultation services to medical staff, consultants, and other interdisciplinary health care personnel. Assist with quality assurance and health promotion programs. Direct work of professional/support staff. Serve as preceptor for COSTEPs and student/interns. Assist senior staff in administrative matters and specialty/research areas as appropriate. Maintain knowledge of therapy procedures and techniques to improve clinical service by participation in continuing education, in-service, etc. Perform other duties or agency/PHS-specific activities as assigned.

02 Therapist

Assess patient, identify therapy diagnosis, and formulate therapy treatment goals and plan. Plan, design, implement, supervise, and modify therapy program for each patient. Develop, implement, and conduct patient education and therapy programs based on patient and/or family needs. Participate in discharge planning with patient, family, and other health care personnel. Provide routine therapy consultation services to medical staff, consultants, and other interdisciplinary health care personnel. Assist with quality assurance and health promotion programs. Direct work of therapy support staff. Maintain knowledge of therapy procedures and techniques to improve clinical service by participation in continuing education, in-service, etc. Perform other duties or agency/PHS-specific activities as assigned.

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BOP Clinical Therapist Assignments

BOP is currently developing an internal career pathway. There is a proposal to their central office delineating staffing levels at each Medical Referral Center (MRC), of which there are seven. Once the staffing levels are approved, billets will then be assigned. Below is a synopsis of the model staffing levels for each facility. The clinical ladder involves beginning as staff therapist and advancing as experience and specialist certification is obtained to O-6 Clinical Specialists. An officer that desires to attain the Administrative Chief position will be allowed opportunity to prepare for this position via temporary designation as Acting Administrative Chief as the need arises.

Billet Grade Title Requirements
O-6 Administrative Chief Experience as Acting Chief and other administrative experience as it relate to duties
O-6 Clinical Specialists 1 board certification with experience; 2 specialist certifications, i.e. OCS, CWS
O-5 Clinical Specialists 1 board certification
O-4 Senior Therapist  
O-3 Staff Therapist  

BOP Non-Traditional Therapist Opportunities

Health System Administrator, GS-670-12.

Health System Administrators function as the department head for the health services department at Federal correctional institutions. Duties include planning, directing, and managing the various areas of the department. Included in this is responsibility for budgetary and fiscal matters, patient care, and laboratory and pharmacy operations.

Qualifications: Applicants must possess one year of specialized experience equivalent to the next lower grade. This experience must have been progressively responsible analytical or administrative, or clinical management or supervisory experience in the health care field. This work may have been performed in an operating health care facility or a higher organizational echelon with advisory or directional authority over such facilities. Work must have involved a close working relationship with facility managers and analysis and/or coordination of administrative, clinical, or other service activities, and provided knowledge of the following: missions, organizations, programs, and requirements of health care delivery systems; regulations and standards of various regulatory and credentialing groups; and government-wide, agency, and facility systems and requirements in various administrative areas such as budget, personnel, and procurement. Applicants must also possess management ability to delegate authority, evaluate and oversee people and programs, and recognize and adapt to changing priorities; and knowledge of the interrelationships and interdependencies among various medical and administrative services and programs.

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CDC Assignment Opportunities

Entry Level Billets / Positions in which therapists have been assigned:

Public Health Advisor/Analyst, GS-685-5-15.

Public health advisors/analysts perform a wide range of functions. They conduct disease intervention activities, manage and evaluate programs, and provide technical assistance to State, local and foreign governments, and other organizations. Program areas that employ public health advisors include chronic diseases, environmental health, immunization, infectious diseases, injury prevention and control, international health and refugee programs, sexually transmitted diseases, and tuberculosis prevention.

Health Education Specialist, GS-1701-5-15.

Health education specialists consult with state and local health officials on chronic disease prevention and health promotion. They are involved in strategic planning, program implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. They work with ethnically and racially diverse groups, e.g., American Indian, Caribbean, African American, and Hispanic populations, which requires an understanding of and ability to communicate effectively with these groups. Major program areas include smoking and health, breast and cervical cancer prevention, diabetes disability prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention, and school health education.

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CMS Established Billets

Series Billet GS Equivalent
0107 Health Insurance Specialist
    0-6 Supervisory 99FQ426 14/15
    0-6 Non-Supervisory 99FQ684 14/15
    0-5 Non-Supervisory (Special Assistant) 99FQ015 13
    0-5 Non-Supervisory 99FQ832 13
    0-4 Non-Supervisory 99FQ974 12
    0-3 Non-Supervisory 99FQ348 9/11
0201 Human Resources Specialist
    0-5 or 0-6   14/15
0340 Program Manager
    0-6 or 0-7   15/16
0601 Health Informatics Specialist
    0-5 Non-Supervisory 99FQ436 13
0601 Survey & Certification Review Specialist
    0-5 Non-Supervisory 99FQ411 13
    0-4 Non-Supervisory 99FQ410 12
    0-3 Non-Supervisory 99FQ409 9/11
0601 Health Program Evaluation Officer (Regional Office)
    0-6 Non-Supervisory 99FQ258 14/15
    0-5 Non-Supervisory 99FQ274 13
    0-4 Non-Supervisory 99FQ272 12
0601 Health Program Evaluation Officer (Central Office)
    0-6 Non-Supervisory 99FQ280 14/15
    0-5 Non-Supervisory 99FQ278 13
    0-4 Non-Supervisory 99FQ277 12
0601 Health Quality Review Specialist
    0-6 Supervisory 99FQ379 14/15
    0-5 Non-Supervisory 99FQ236 13
1701 Staff Development Specialist
    0-5 Non-Supervisory 99FQ396 13
2210 Information Technology Specialist (Systems Analyst)
    0-6 Non-Supervisory 99FQ406 14/15

Health Insurance Specialist

Provides technical advice and assistance to senior managers and staff to ensure the accomplishment of the goals and objectives of the CMS Strategic Plan. Develops policy options; assesses, analyzes, and presents issues to Center/Regional senior staff and CMS policy makers. Performs major analyses to assess and define trends in emerging or existing policies. Incorporates the latest research findings into analyses of policy issues. Advises high-level decision makers and management officials regarding health policies, legislation or regulations.

Survey & Certification Review Specialist

Conducts onsite inspections of health care delivery provided to beneficiaries in order to evaluate quality of care, quality of life and the provisions of other services. Identifies opportunities for improving State Agency (SA) performance and effectiveness by conducting Federal surveys in one or more specialized health areas, as assigned. Monitors and evaluates State enforcement of health and safety standards for health care providers. Interprets Federal laws and SA regulations and enforces Medicare/Medicaid standards and other applicable regulations. Analyses statistical and historical data, claims data, reports on provider surveys, records of SA operations, and other sources of information in order to assess SA quality of care and to recommend improvements.

Health Program Evaluation Officer

Serves as a Medicare/Medicaid health program evaluation officer in policy and specialty areas to resolve very complex and sensitive issues pertaining to health care financial and quality assurance. Issues include: payment coverage and other policy matters, oversight of research and demonstrations, guidelines and standards development, and peer review to ensure that Agency goals are met. Judgment failure could impact Agency effectiveness in achieving its objectives.

Staff Development Specialist

Develops and facilitates the implementation of an internal learning and training plan for the Agency's Health Care Quality Improvement Program (HCQIP) program staff: CMS Office of Clinical Standards and Quality (OCSQ) Quality Improvement Group (QIG) and Regional Office staff involved in the management of the QIO and ESRD programs. Develops and facilitates the implementation of a learning and training plan for QIOs and ESRD Networks, in support of the goals of these programs. Develops HCQIP orientation materials and processes. Identifies internal and external trainers and materials. Facilities the ongoing identification of individual and program-wise training and learning needs, aligning training plans to these needs and, as appropriate, suggesting further study to address outstanding knowledge gaps.

Note: A detailed description of duties and billets must be obtained from the CMS Commissioned Corps Liaison: Ms Jane Leitner, Phone: 410-786-1786; e-mail: jleitner@cms.hhs.gov

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FDA Assignments

Entry Level Billets / Positions available:

  1. Consumer Safety Officer GS-12/O-4
  2. Assignments within different Centers (i.e. Center for Radiological Health, Center for Food and Safety, etc.)…(Can be both advanced level and entry level assignment)…GS-12/13; O-4/O-5

Career Pathways:

Formal Progression:

  1. Regional Specialist (Consumer Safety Officer) GS-13/14;0-5/0-6
  2. National Specialist (Consumer Safety Officer) GS-13/14;0-5/0-6
  3. Compliance Officer GS-13/14;0-5/0-6
  4. Supervisor (All levels, local, regional and national GS-13/15; 0-5/0-7)

Informal Progression:

  1. Opportunities to specialize in particular inspectional programs as a Consumer Safety Officer (i.e. Radiological Health, Medical Devices, Drugs, Foods, Imports, Biologics, etc.)
  2. Public Affairs Officer

FDA Billets

Billet Grade Title CS Series Billet Career Track Primary Job GS Equivalent
O-6 Sr. Supervisory Regulatory Operations Officer General Health Science General Duty Regulatory Affairs: Enforcement and Compliance Management GS-14/15
O-5 Supervisory Regulatory Operations Officer General Health Science General Duty Regulatory Affairs: Enforcement and Compliance Regulatory Enforcement and Licensing GS-13
O-5 Sr. Regulatory Operations Officer General Health Science General Duty Regulatory Affairs: Enforcement and Compliance Regulatory Enforcement and Licensing GS-13
O-4 Regulatory Operations Officer General Health Science General Duty Regulatory Affairs: Enforcement and Compliance Regulatory Enforcement and Licensing GS-12
O-4 Investigator / Full Performance Consumer Safety General Duty Regulatory Affairs: Enforcement and Compliance Regulatory Enforcement and Licensing GS-12
O-3 Investigator / Junior Level Consumer Safety General Duty Regulatory Affairs: Enforcement and Compliance Regulatory Enforcement and Licensing GS-9/11
O-2 Investigator / Advanced Trainee Consumer Safety General Duty Regulatory Affairs: Enforcement and Compliance Regulatory Enforcement and Licensing GS-7

Sample FDA Position Descriptions

Consumer Safety Officer

Perform duties such as investigating complaints of injury, illness, or death caused by a product regulated by the FDA; initiating actions against violators; advising and training industry, State and local officials and consumers on enforcement policies, methods, and interpretation of regulations and their impact on public health; developing, drafting, and coordinating clearance and issuance of Federal Register rules and notices, as well as citizen petition responses; policy guidance; applying the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C) to a variety of requests for information concerning FDA's scientific/regulatory activities; and other consultations concerning regulatory matters. Consumer Safety Officers also plan and direct regulatory programs and/or develop inspections of regulated industry, or manage and coordinate the review process of marketing applications.

Supervisory Consumer Safety Officer

Establish investigative workload based upon the complexities of the cases and capabilities /or availability of FDA investigative staff. Determine appropriate regulatory follow-up in context with the existing law(s) and regulations, FDA and Center policies, and with an evaluation as to the strength of the case. Perform other duties as assigned.

Regulatory Health Project Coordinator

Serves as co-leader of the review team; schedules meetings, and prepares issue-based agendas and official records of meetings. Negotiates the timely resolution of scientific and regulatory conflicts or problems. Assures the timely completion of project activities within established project plans and performance goals set by the team. Develops project plans, including setting time frames, milestones, and an agreed upon endpoint. Directly coordinates and manages the work of the review team members for the specific drug application review to determine the progress being made; may recommend workload distribution. Monitors and reports actual status of all activities within the assigned projects; serves as the primary point of contact for the up to date status project progress.

Public Affairs Officer

Serves as the communications strategist, press officer, and official media spokesperson. Coordinates the office's community education and media outreach strategies and action plans to disseminate promotional and other information to the public, health care providers, members of Congress, the media, and state and local governments. Coordinates press strategies with public relations staff at FDA and HHS headquarters and keeps headquarters officials informed of major media events and stories. Researches and writes materials (press releases and press kits, fact sheets, feature stories, background statements, talking points, journal articles, speeches, and question-and-answer briefing materials) for general release that reflect agency policy and philosophy. Gathers and synthesizes market level intelligence gleaned from routine environmental scanning of news resources and from health care industry and partner contacts. Alerts senior leadership about imminent and sensitive issues.

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