October is Physical Therapy Month To Celebrate, We Explain the Difference Between a PT and a PTA
A patient complained to a Physical Therapist (PT) about being ‘pawned off to his Assistant’ after the initial evaluation, thinking a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) is just a ‘helper.’ In fact, a PTA is a highly trained medical professional with different responsibilities from a PT.
ALL PT and PTA programs are accredited through the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), and programs must be regularly audited to retain their accreditation. After graduating from a program, the student will not be awarded the title of Physical Therapist or Physical Therapist Assistant until passing a national licensure exam. At Turning Point, Mike is the Physical Therapist (PT); Chip and Sharon are the Physical Therapist Assistants (PTA).
PTA programs are intensive 19-month programs with lecture, hands-on training, and clinical rotations. Upon graduating, students earn an AS degree. PT programs are now doctorate programs that run 4 years after the student earns their bachelor’s degree and include lecture, hands-on training, and clinical rotations. Both PT and PTA programs are highly competitive with usually only a 20% to 25% acceptance rate with some acceptance rates as low as 8%.
The PT (Mike) is responsible for initial evaluations, re-evaluations, discharges, sending reports to physicians and insurance companies, and requesting medical equipment prescriptions (like SI belts). The PT is also responsible for setting goals (along with input from the patient) and designing the plan of care.
The PTA (Chip or Sharon) is responsible for following the PT’s plan of care and working toward attaining the goals. The PTA also can make recommendations to the PT regarding treatment and suggesting medical equipment. The PTA also has the responsibility to report changes to the PT regarding patient medical status, as an injury, illness, or a fall.
Mike has every confidence in his PTA’s, not only to follow his plan of care, but to make sure the patient progresses towards their goals. Although you may feel more comfortable with Chip or Sharon, it is important to see each therapist, as they see things differently and because of their diverse backgrounds, approach patients’ pain and dysfunction on completely distinct levels.