Is the PTA Profession Changing?
Preview: CSM 2009
How has the changing profession of physical therapy impacted PT assistants? Changes to Medicare, third-party payer rules, an ever-aging patient population, a stagnant economy and fluctuating demand for therapy services can make an impact on PTAs and how they are used. Many in the profession think it already has. We at ADVANCE hear from PTAs regularly who express concerns about how they are used in their work settings and what their education options mean for their future.
Recent Letters to the Editor show this concern. One writer wrote: "I have been a practicing PTA since 1995 and due to the limited options for advancing my career in PT, I have started to school to get a degree in exercise science. I'm just hoping there will be a bridge program out there when I finish. I work with some wonderful PTs who do appreciate PTAs and have often been asked why I didn't go on to be a PT. It's because the options aren't there."
Another opined: "I too am constantly being asked for my advice and experience regarding how to treat patients...At the time I went to PTA school, it was very difficult to even be considered for admission to a PT program, so I opted for the PTA route knowing that there was a transition program in my state. We are always hearing about the DPT, but never anything about programs or options for PTA's to advance their education. When is it finally going to be our turn to get the recognition and options we deserve?"
This year, the APTA has decided to address concerns about the future for PTAs in a session "Physical Therapists Assistant or Physical Therapist Substitute: Real Life Cases Clarify the PTA's Role." Catch it on Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. if you are headed to the Combined Sections Meeting in Las Vegas Feb. 9-12. Judging by the comments ADVANCE receives I think the session will be a popular one and one that is welcomed by PTAs both in the APTA and outside the organization. The session plans to address the role of PTAs as it was originally established more than 40 years ago compared to how they are used today, consult research on how PTAs are directed in the workplace and compare APTA utilization practices with that research, discuss PTA practice within various settings and suggest better methods on using PTAs properly in all settings.
Is such a discussion a long time coming? Perhaps it can get a dialogue started, and address questions on how the PTA profession will fare in the future, given the expansion of the DPT and possible drops in PT applications. We'd love to hear from both PTAs and PTs on their thoughts about this.