How are PTA's used and valued?

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Comments (8)

Mike in Los Angeles, California

22 months ago

What are the responsibilities of a PTA? I know they follow the plan of care set by the PT and focus on the treatment of the patient. What I'm still unclear on is how much critical thinking is involved in being a PTA.

Is the plan of care just a checklist that the PTA follows? So, for example, it might says 3 sets of 10 ball rises, 3 sets of 10 back rows, etc. And the PTA just makes sure they're doing them and using proper form. If they're just following exact orders set by the PT, it doesn't really seem like they're doing much critical thinking, or need much skill.

Don't get me wrong: I'm very interested in pursuing a career as a PTA. However, I'm a little worried that I'll just be following a checklist (like an aide, perhaps?) and not really be using any of my brain.

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Dee in Garden Grove, California

21 months ago

I have been wondering the same thing. I really want to continue my education and i would like to stay in the healthcare field, but I'm not exactly which specific field in healthcare is for me.

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manbesam martinez in Tampa, Florida

21 months ago

I just started PTA school last month and let me tell you, it is difficult and very fast paced. Of course I have no real experience out in the field yet but there seems to be a whole lot more to physical therapy than just a bunch of corrective exercises. I think a lot of it has to do with "WHO" you work for. In addition to providing therapuetic exercise and modalities, By law PTA's are allowed to measure joint angles, perform manual muscle testing (MMT) to check for joint stability, make recommendations regarding patient progress and complete SOAP notes at the end of treatments. You may end up working for a jerk though that doesnt want PTA's doing anything. In which case, why were you hired?
The only horror stories i've heard about PT's not liking PTA's and not letting them utilize their skills have been soley online. Every PT I've ever spoken to values their PTA's and relies on them to not only treat, but to also assess and make recommendations to them about how the patient is progressing and what changes, if any, need to be made to plan of treatment.
So Mike, I'm sure there will be lots of rep counting and lots of checklist following, but with that said, the PTA's input is valued and relied upon for the creation and the modification of that checklist.

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KingV911 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

21 months ago

I graduated from a PTA program this Spring and had three internships at three different facilities. I can say from that experience that it makes a big different what PT you are working under. Some PTs are VERY type-A and like to tell you what exactly they want you to do with a patient. Other PTs that I was under (I'd say most of them) let me do whatever I wanted with the patient as long as it was appropriate to the plan of care. Even the type-A folks let you make your own adjustments while your treating. I mean, if the PT says, "do this with patient X", but while you're treating patient X that just doesn't seem to be working than you as a PTA would make judgement calls as you see fit. It's a cool job really. You get to do all the fun hands-on stuff with A LOT less stress and paperwork. Yes, you give up a lot of autonomy, but if you're the kind of person (like me) that would rather just do the job and have less stress then you'd probably enjoy it.

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bluelineman in McKinney, Texas

21 months ago

It varies on the setting & what PT you are working with. I work in home health & have 22 years of (varied setting) experience. So most of them give me the basics on somebody & that's it. Some are more detailed, some less & just expect me to read the eval & go from there. If there's something unusual or something specific they need they let me know.

You have to show to each PT that you know what you're doing. When new, you should expect a little more direction. After you prove yourself, most PT's give you a lot more leeway. They only problem I have is when working in a different or new setting, you have to prove yourself all over again. After gaining some experience, if you work PRN somewhere, they expect you to read the notes (eval) & figure it out from there.

Hope this helps.

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Mike in Norwalk, California

20 months ago

Such great responses! Thank you all. This is very much what I was looking for. Very much appreciated!

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Carlos in Mundelein, Illinois

19 months ago

PTA's deal with less stress and little less paperwork than PTs, they usually follow the plan of care laid out by the PT. It all depends on the PT, some are great but others are my way or the highway attitude.

Where I work the PTs do ask for the PTAs opinion for certain patients and communication is always there

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RAFFMAN in Red Deer, Alberta

19 months ago

Your critical thinking comes in when the PT treatment plan being rendered is still appropriate to the patient. You cant do the assessment but you can relate the outcome of the treatment to your attending PT. Does not mean a PT can make a regimen treatment plan, everything will fall accordingly. I have worked as a PT, PTA, and an RN, once you have a direct contact with the patient - you can basically tell their initial and final response with the treatment.

When I was working as a PTA, I always update the PT the outcome of the treatment to the patient. When I worked as a PT, I have to update the doctor to the outcome of the treatment I made. When I am an RN, what doctors ordered, we still need to check it and make sure what he ordered does not affect the care plan of the patient that was missed by the doctor. If you make yourself passive then critical thinking skill will not set in at all.

Male Nurse, BSPT,BSN

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