PTA: The Right Fit for You?
Having very nearly completed my journey as a SPTA (I just took my licensing exam this week), I've thought hard about the advice I would give to a new PTA student or person thinking about the field of physical therapist assisting. Initially, I would suggest that if someone was looking for an "easy" two-year degree that can yield a living wage and allow for hours of "down time" - this might not be the right profession. However, if that someone loved working with people of all ages, had an abundance of patience and thrived in an environment that promoted self learning - then PTA is the perfect fit.
Secondly (but just as important), a potential candidate would have to be a team player. Whether working skilled nursing or outpatient orthopedic, a PTA will not only be working side-by-side with PTs and other PTAs, but potentially OT, COTAs, nursing and speech therapists. Collaborating and assisting with this team of professionals is paramount in helping patients reach their goals. If communicating with people isn't your strong suit, neither would be the field of physical therapy. Connecting with patients and teaching correct technique can be the key in facilitating recovery.
Finally, if you're considering becoming a PTA, you'll have to be prepared to reach out and touch someone - literally. Germaphobes, "personal-space" respecters and the soft touches need not apply. There's a reason it's called "physical" therapy after all - "hands-on" is in the job description. You'll be touching people, including many who are in pain and would prefer not to be touched. To provide a close guard assist on a 92-year-old with balance deficits, there's not much room between her body and yours.
As a disclaimer: I'm the last person in the PT "expertise" line. Heck, I'm not technically a PTA - yet (I'll find out if I passed the exam in a few days). I do, however, have the unique perspective of surviving my SPTA experience and imparting a few unsolicited observations to someone who might be considering PTA as a career. In the end, I feel remarkably lucky I finally found a rewarding profession where I can help people, challenge myself and constantly learn.