Polk State PTA Director trades clinical role for academia
Mary Krell started June 1 as director of Polk State’s Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Program and brings nearly 10 years of professional experience to the College.
Most recently serving as a clinical instructor for PTA students at AdventHealth in Lakeland, she says she felt a calling to transition to academia when a colleague who also serves as an adjunct instructor in the Polk State PTA Program shared that Krell would be a strong candidate for the director’s position at the College.
“She really believes in this program and wants it to be successful, and her recommendation meant a lot to me, so I felt this sort of calling to take everything I have learned through my clinical experience and bring that to this program and the students,” Krell said.
“I felt this sort of calling to take everything I have learned through my clinical experience and bring that to this program and the students.”
Mary Krell, Director of Polk State’s Physical Therapist Assistant Program
Since arriving earlier this month, Krell says she has felt the same sense of pride her colleague expressed throughout the program and College.
And while her day-to-day in the office is different from her experience in the clinical setting, Krell is excited for change and challenges.
“Instead of going patient to patient, it’s now going Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting,” she laughed. “But it’s that change and that challenge that I really like. I’m quickly learning what needs to be done to take this program to the next level and ensure our students are successful.”
Krell’s personal story serves as motivation for Polk State’s PTA students.
It was the first practice of her varsity year of basketball in high school when she injured her knee and needed physical therapy.
“Our team made it to states that year and I was on crutches cheering them on,” she recalled.
“But the six months of physical therapy during a time when I was trying to figure out what I was going to do after high school really inspired my path,” she added. “I went into college still unsure of what I wanted to do but I had the opportunity to participate in observation hours in the clinical setting, and that confirmed my interest in physical therapy.”
Krell achieved a Bachelor of Science in Health and Human Sciences as well as a Master of Physical Therapy from Northern Illinois University.
As a licensed physical therapist, she worked in outpatient orthopedics since 2012.
“Mary Krell’s professional experience in clinical settings will benefit our students in the PTA Program multifold. Krell will share the most innovative, current practices that have healed an array of patient issues,” Vice President of Workforce Education and Economic Development Orathai Northern said.
“Mary Krell’s professional experience in clinical settings will benefit our students in the PTA Program multifold. Krell will share the most innovative, current practices that have healed an array of patient issues.”
Dr. Orathai Northern, Vice President of Workforce Education and Economic Development
“She will be able to prepare students not only for the technical skills, but also the soft skills necessary in-patient care. And Krell’s recent field experience will provide evidence of the labor market demand for this profession.”
The need for physical therapist assistants is expected to grow 29 percent through 2029, much faster than the average growth for other occupations. Additionally, the potential salaries for physical therapist assistants average $49,970 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Krell, who moved to Lakeland in 2018 with her husband and two children, elaborated on how she felt called to transition into the academic realm.
“When this position opened up, I thought that if I hadn’t moved to Lakeland and worked at AdventHealth, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity. I had to answer that calling,” she explained. “I want to see students succeed and I’m excited to be a part of their journeys.”
“Physical therapy is a rewarding career with a lot of different settings, from orthopedics, to hospitals, to home health, to athletics,” Krell added. “It is rewarding to see patients improve and get better. Now, it will be rewarding for me to see students become successful physical therapist assistants who will help their future patients.”