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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Future of the PTA Profession

Published February 20, 2016 4:06 PM by Dillon Stickle

ANAHEIM, CA -- Today at CSM, in a lecture titled "Transforming the Role of the PTA to Meet the Vision of the Physical Therapy Profession," speakers Jennifer Jewell, PT, DPT, Beverly Labosky, PTA, BA, Pamela Pologruto, PT, DPT, and Gina Tarud, PT, DPT, took a look at how the role of the PTA should meet the APTA's new vision: transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.

The speakers noted that the profession should anticipate the future knowledge requirements of the PTA. They looked at the historical perspective of the occupation, including the evolution of the liensure exam and the change in requirements of the PTA.

They looked at the current role of the PTA, specifically on supervision, continuing education, and the overall scope of the PT practice.

On supervision, a surprising 68% of states had PTAs under general supervision -- the lowest level of supervision offered to the PTA -- while only 10% had direct on-site supervision.

On continuing education, statistics showed that 43 states required at least 8 hours of CEUs. They presented a number of advancement opportunities to PTA graduates, but an overwhelming number of PTAs did not know of the opportunities that were out there.

The speakers then took a look at PT/PTA perspectives and found that there were specific challenges facing the field:

- Underutilization of the PTA (including the lack of education for the PT on the role of the PTA)

- Insurance company regulations

- State practice act regulations

- Delegation

- Lack of opportunities

- Productivity standards

Finally, they took a look at the next step for the PTA profession. For example, they played with the idea of tiered degree programs, like that of the nursing programs (RN, BSN, MSN, etc.) and how that could be implemented. Another would be to advance continuing education and credentialing opportunities for the PTA.

The lecture ended with a fitting quote from Walt Disney: "Around here, we don't look backwards for very long; we keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things because we're curious... and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."


Utilization of PTAs will soon change again as CMS plans to release new payment schedules based on the type of treating therapist. If things go as planned, PTAs will be reimbursed at 85% of a PT reimbursement which will cause a significant change in how outpatient practices delegate patients, at least here in NC where PTAs are regularly utilized to allow for more PT evaluations. I agree that the widening education gap is partly to blame, but the lack of participation in APTA is a large contributor. We need to increase our participation in order to advocate for our colleagues and allow our lobbyists the necessary resources for success. Unfortunately many practitioners do not know the extent of benefits included in membership and how detrimental low membership rates can be to the future of our profession. We can’t effectively address the challenges being faced without our pooled resources.

Michelle, SPT April 13, 2018 10:04 AM

I have been in this field for over 35 years,  and have touched on every aspect of this profession, from oupatient, hospital, clinic, homecare, peds and more.  I feel that you need to find out what you are good at and try each niche, put your hand in every job, get your feelers out, basically earning the respect of the profession as well as the PT's that you will work with.  I have not seen our field dwindle in any such way, job offers come weekly as more venues are opening and your name is out there earning trust. Treating a patient is enjoyable. You not only treat the patient, but you should treat the person first. The PT has given you the chance to prove yourself, evaluating and conferening with you on goals and outcomes. There are a million ways to work with in those goals to achieve them and the PT is giving you the chance to shine, and if they like what you do, the work is easy and limitless, word gets out that you are good, people will talk about what you are doing, and PT's talk with each other as well and that is a good thing.  I have learned so much from the PT's I have worked with, and hopefully they have learned from me.  Go out and work in different fields, broaden your horizens.  You are schooled every day.  Its called the Unniversity of life. You are tested daily, learning quickly as each patient, person,  family member and PT are all learning from you as well. Your insight and instincts are very important as you are out there. Are profession is strong and growing, and I dont see it fading in the least. Go out and make it work. no one else can for you.

Tom Gwiazda, Home Care - PTA, MHC March 26, 2016 10:09 AM
Enfield CT

I think the PTA will fade away in Florida as there is a college here informing their DPT grads refuse to do evals for PTA and refuse to hire them and they will become extinct. As these DPTs want to decide who is going to be assisting them back to the days of the PT techs. Florida is so over populated with PTAs it's difficult to find work.

Bobbie Abbott, PTA March 2, 2016 11:11 PM
Ocala FL

I believe the PTA profession is dying a slow death at least in NY. Lack of support by the APTA and advancement of PT's to DPT has broadened the gap to a degree that causes problems. We were told at my facility a few years ago that as PTA's leave we will be replaced with PT's. I am glad I had my career when I did and am now able to retire with the knowledge that I have served my profession well.

Darlene, PTA February 26, 2016 6:37 PM

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