When scheduling your next round of physical therapy treatments you may have been offered an appointment slot with a PTA. Most likely the word “Assistant” stood out to you, and you weren’t sure what that means. “Do they know what to do? How are they different than my PT?” Both valid and important questions. So let’s get into it. Physical Therapist Assistants are the only recognized extension of a Physical Therapist. They have all earned degrees from accredited schools, passed national board examinations, and hold licenses to perform physical therapy treatment in their state. How they differ from your PT can be simplified to one simple phrase: They don’t perform Initial Evaluations.
Do you remember the initial visit with your PT when they asked you a lot of questions, performed various tests, and gave you their assessment of what to do next? This is known as an Initial Evaluation. The PT uses this information to set up a plan of care. This plan sets up a scope of what to do, and what not to do, during your treatments.
This is where the PTA comes in. The education the PTA has completed provides a wealth of knowledge on the theory, and application, of treatments within the plan of care established by your PT. This plan is utilized every time you come in, and the PT and PTA are excellent communicators within their team to update this plan as needed.
To summarize: Once the PT performs their evaluation, PTAs are experts in treating your condition with physical therapy interventions. You are receiving care from a licensed physical therapy professional with a wealth of knowledge on the treatment of patients just like you. What’s even better is that your primary PT continues to follow you as a patient and performs frequent re-checks with you to make sure you are progressing. Think of it as two therapists for the price of one.
So the next time you are scheduling your appointments and a PTA pops up I hope you will feel confident being treated by one of us. Have a happy and healthy week and remember: If its physical its therapy!
Written by: Colten Yeigh, PTA