PTAs Weigh In!
I was happy to see my editorial from March 23 print issue (Up Front, page 3) received so much response. The editorial read in part: "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."
Many PTAs responded with their concerns and a general appreciation of the topic. One wrote, "I am a PTA of three years now and currently exploring my options of going to PT school. Why? Because PTAs are overlooked, underpaid and unappreciated. We are well-educated professionals who do not get the recognition and the chance to advance in our field as the PT does. I have worked with fully competent PTAs including myself who deserve more than what is offered to us. The PT gets opportunities to become rehab directors, lead therapists, mentors, corporate positions as new grads-but what about us? Why isn't the PTA given the opportunity to hold a higher position? Because we don't have a doctorate and can't do an eval and discharge?"
Another mentioned reimbursement concerns: "I have been witness to insurance with...restrictions on PTAs who have already put into effect the refusal to reimburse for services rendered by a PTA, in effect phasing out the PTA as a profession."
And this writer mentioned education constraints: "The [editorial] mentioned the APTA talking about the future of PTAs but left me wanting more information from them as to any kind of resolution. It seems to me to be a waste of time to even be an assistant because of how the APTA has dead-ended the field. I think there needs to be options for those of us who want to evolve to a DPT level. Thank you for bringing light to this subject."
I get a chance to update state-by-state numbers on how many PTAs are registered in each state for our periodic regional supplements in print. While I have not tracked a drastic change, the numbers of registered PTAs seem to stay the same or have dropped slightly. This is in areas such as the lower south regions (GA, FL) and even in northern states such as NY and PA. Are there not enough applicants, or are more PTAs pursuing other options or returning to school to become PTs? I encourage PTAs to keep the comments and information coming.