The Women’s Health Clinical Specialist Certification: Strategies to Get You To and Through the Exam

Posted By: Mandi Jo Murtaugh Career Development,

By Mandi Murtaugh, PT, DPT, WCS

In 2009, the American Board of Physical Therapist Specialties (ABPTS) administered the first Women’s Health Clinical Specialist (WCS) exam. Since then, 333 individuals have sat for the exam and passed, earning shiny new initials behind their name. While each individual has personal reasons for taking the WCS exam, they all have one thing in common: They received little direction to help them prepare.

I took the exam for professional advancement. I was applying for a new job in June 2013, and the potential employer strongly encouraged me to pursue it. This meant that I wrote my case reflection in two weeks, since the July 1 application deadline was fast approaching (I work best under pressure!).

I waited for my acceptance notification, and then … I procrastinated. I found the list of more than 200 articles and books that the Section on Women’s Heath (SOWH) provided, but I just didn’t know where to start.

I emailed everyone I knew to find a study partner, but while many people expressed interested in a study group, none of them were taking the exam in 2014. I suddenly felt saddled with trying to organize my own study group with people I wasn’t sure would be as committed to the March end goal. It was already November, and I hadn’t started studying. I was stressed.

Finally, thanks to a helpful WCS-veteran who put out a call to her wide network, I connected with two other physical therapists taking the exam in 2014. The three of us were all on the West Coast, and we set up group video chats, agreed on the best strategies to study, and divided up the reading. We worked hard, complemented one another well, and come June, we all got word of a passing score.

The most challenging thing for me during exam preparation was the anxiety of figuring out how to study and who to study with. When the Section put out a call last year for someone to create a WCS Study Guide Committee, I got in touch with one of my study partners, Peg Maas, and convinced her to start the committee with me. As we work to create substantial study materials to guide each new wave of WCS-hopefuls, our goal is to make sure others can focus on the real preparations for the test.

That’s why we’re starting with a two-hour educational session at CSM, “The WCS: Strategies to Get You To and Through the Exam,” where we’ll cover how to apply for the exam and how to start studying. Most importantly, it will be an opportunity to network with others considering certification to start connecting well before the hard work begins.

For those of you currently in the grind of studying, you’ve got this. Get in touch with us, so we can put you in touch with each other. Watch for new materials soon. For those of you delaying the exam because you lack study materials, your time has come! And for those of you already privileged to be wearing your WCS pin, if you have any helpful tips for us to share, please let us know. Helping is what we’re all about!

Mandi Murtaugh, PT, DPT, WCS, and Peg Maas, PT, WCS, will present a two-hour educational session at CSM titled “The WCS: Strategies To Get You To and Through the Exam” at 8 a.m. Thursday, February 18, 2017.

Author: Mandi Murtaugh, PT, DPT, WCS, is co-chair of the SOWH WCS Study Guide Committee. She also is a member of the SOWH Education Review and CAPP-OB committees, and assists at CAPP Pelvic and OB courses. She practices at Evergreen Health Outpatient Rehabilitation in Kirkland, Wash. You can reach her at