The field of physical therapy assistants, or PTAs, has been rapidly growing and receiving increased exposure. Many people understand the basic concept of physical therapy and what these professionals are called upon to perform. However, at the same time, many people don’t quite understand what it is then that. Use this guide to learn more about the physical therapy assistant profession as a whole.
Physical therapy assistants clearly help physical therapists in the workplace. But not all tasks are shared, and not everything is relegated or left to the PTA. The physical therapist maintains sole responsibility for tasks such as original evaluation and diagnosis, and developing an original treatment plan with specific therapies, time frames, goals and so forth. They are setting the agenda and offering medical opinions.
From there, the PTA jumps in and will in many cases take over, or work hand in hand with the physical therapist for providing treatment. PTAs will often be the individuals offering a specific treatment, such as strength or balance building exercises, massages, therapeutic exercises, and a variety of other treatments such as electrotherapy or ultrasound. PTAs may also be called upon to help provide increased wellness services, help patients get back to a more active and healthier lifestyle, and more.
When a physical therapist is the one performing the therapy, the PTA may also be involved directly. In this scenario, a PTA may be taking notes on the patient’s response or progress, may be physically assisting or providing comfort to the patient, and many more tasks and details from there.
Depending on the setting, PTAs may either be working continually with the same patients, or different PTAs in the same office may be called upon for different tasks at different times. For example, in an acute care setting, one PTA may be the typical go-to choice for week 1 exercising and therapy after a traumatic injury or major surgery, while another may take over at a later stage, or be more of a right-hand assistant to the physical therapist at all steps and stages.
Not only will PTAs be performing therapy, exercise or other treatment procedures, but they are also a crucial go between for the patient and the physical therapist. How is the patient responding, are they improving or has new pain developed, what is working best, what does the patient need more of, and so forth.
Ultimately, the entire field of physical therapy is about providing patients and clients with a pain-free lifestyle with improved mobility and physical capabilities, either abolishing conditions, recovering from injury, or finding the best solution to deal with a permanent injury, illness or condition. PTAs will have many different roles within this, from performing therapy, assisting with exercise, noting progress and working with the physical therapist to develop revised strategies, and much more. It’s an exciting, dynamic field which is highly rewarding in many different ways.