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Life of a PTA

Now Where Was I?

Published December 16, 2013 5:20 PM by Allison Young

Hello there, ADVANCE readers. My name is Allison Young and I've been a PTA for more than two years now in a skilled nursing facility setting. I took a year or two respite from the "blogosphere" to concentrate on my career and family with varying degrees of success, which I'll expand on later. To recap quickly, I began my original blog with ADVANCE as a fledgling student, also known as "Life of an SPTA," then graduated to my "Life of a PTA" perspective, albeit a new and naive therapist.

Although I'm still a "young" therapist, the experience I've gained over the past few years working with everything from post-op patients to the geriatric population (my personal favorite) has left me feeling like an embattled solider many days. Through full-time challenging patients and immense mentoring opportunities awarded to me by my seasoned PT and PTA coworkers, this experience has allowed my confidence as a therapist to grow.

My first year as a therapist, which I brutally described in detail during my previous blog tenure (honestly, I can barely read those posts now), left me white-knuckling the steering wheel every morning I drove into the facility parking lot. These days, I'm more concerned if my patients are progressing safely toward their short-term goals and whether I'll have enough time to fit in a run after work.

Don't get me wrong, the pressure is a constant in the current SNF setting. Patients are in high levels of pain, motivation to get out of their beds is low and the "productivity" clock never slows down -- which makes for a daily stress-filled environment. Looking back at my first few blogs as a licensed PTA, I believe "stress" headlined most of my discussions. Is the stress still there? Sure! But I've learned to process and adapt as well as find ways to take care of myself outside of work -- which is of huge importance and highly recommended, by the way.

Personally my life has changed as well. I'm still a mom of two, one of whom is a teenage girl now, which raises the level of parenting difficulty to 9 out of 10. If you have a 13-year-old daughter, you know exactly what I'm talking about (and I'm sorry by the way, I'm told it will get better). As well, I'm now a single, working mother having recently gone through a divorce.

Difficult times lie behind and in front of us all both personally and professionally, so I'm looking forward to communicating my experiences in the hope that someone can relate, maybe laugh and give me thoughts and feedback. I'll try to bring my unique perspective to this physical therapy community every week. I welcome your opinion and would love the discussion. Thanks for reading, great to be back!

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I totally agree with your comments!  I too have been a PTA for 33 yrs with the last 15yrs in the SNF setting.  The changes in the Medicare have me seriously considering another profession!  I feel as though I have gone from a skilled clinician to an assembly line worker.  My company has us on such a tight schedule to keep up productivity that you barely have time for a restroom break.  If the patients are, God forbid, too ill to come to therapy and cannot meet their minutes I am penalized and sent home because of low productivity! It is a daily battle to keep on schedule because of various external factors such as illness, poor motivation, undocumented MD appts., and poor cooperation from nursing staff to have the patients ready on time. The only thing that keeps me at this job is that I absolutely love my Geriatric patients and know that I am helping them get better!  I commend you for furthering your education. Unless I can find a job in therapy that is not so micro managed, I think my next career will be a cashier at Publix!  

Diane, Geriatrics - PTA, SNF January 27, 2014 8:23 AM
Tampa FL

I have been licensed as a PTA for 30yrs, and recently graduated from an OTA program, need to take boards yet. Finally have moved from the clinical arena to the educational arena. The SNF situation with the RUG levels and the high minutes some patients are at has lead some therapists into unethical practices. Like don't place a patient on the nustep for 30 minutes to eat up time. I fear medicare is going to stop paying for minutes on devices and only for hands on treatment. Maybe it needs to go back to this, but some patient do benefit from time on certain pieces of equipment. I like the SNF environment but not trying to see a patient for 75-90 minutes who can only tolerate 30. Then the Rehab director goes ballistic that you missed the minutes and that blow their bonus.

Bobbie Abbott, PTA - Adj instructor, Taylor College January 25, 2014 10:24 PM
Belleview FL

Mary, Thanks so much for the kind words. That's fantastic to hear about your new job. I (very) often ask myself: will I ever work anywhere else other than a SNF?  Good for you- for making the move. It sounds like you really enjoy it. When I finally decide to switch to another setting please give me your feedback.  Thanks for taking the time to read my blog!

Allison Young January 2, 2014 1:44 AM

Allison, I just discovered that you are back! I enjoy reading your blogs. I've been an active PTA for as long as you have and completely agree about the stress. I have went from being in a full time SNF to a facility that does out-patient, in-patient (from the hospital and long term care) and home health. I have less stress with my current position than working at the SNF. Keep on blogging as I truly enjoy reading your stories!

Mary, PTA December 31, 2013 9:11 AM

Thanks so much and don't worry about ranting. I'll take all the advice you're willing to give :)

Dee December 24, 2013 12:37 AM

Welcome back.

Jason Marketti December 19, 2013 11:18 PM

Hi Dee,

Well first off; Congratulations for surviving the PTA program. As you know by now, it's incredibly challenging and a life changing experience. Give yourself credit for making it this far- you're almost done! Secondly, I felt the EXACT same way. I even told my advisor during one of my last quarters in the program that I couldn't see myself "working" as a PTA. He laughed at me (in a good way) and reassured me that I would do fine. The instructors in the PTA program constantly reminded us that as students we would only have a "small toolbox" of skills going into our careers. Meaning, we would "add" skills along the way in the experience we gained- and that is exactly what happened. My tool box of skills consisted of 'one philips head screw driver and a dull exacto knife', when I first started by the way. So here's my advice: When you take your first position, work at a clinic/hospital/facility where the PT/PTA staff are interested in either mentoring or teaching a new therapist, like yourself. Ask this at your interview- it's very important, and it shows you're willing to learn. Secondly, accept that the profession you have chosen, enables and expects you to keep learning through taking continuing ed classes (which are required to keep your license). I've taking fantastic CE classes over the past few years that have helped me grow as a therapist. Lastly, you will constantly be learning something new everyday- from your co workers and patients. Which is one of the most exciting aspects of this profession. Sorry to rant- I just know where you're coming from and I'm so excited for you! Hope this helps.

Allison Young December 17, 2013 10:43 PM

Hi Allison. I've been reading your blog since I was just taking gen ed courses for the PTA program. Your blog helped me to have a sneek peek of what my life would entail as an SPTA and future PTA. I'm glad you are back to give more advice and a view of how your doing as a PTA. I've just finished my 3rd term in the program and am entering my last term this coming January. Though excited Im also very nervous because I don't think my skills are sufficient enough to begin working yet. Ive noticed Im more book smart than "street" smart. My practical skills need work. Did you come across this feeling as you were nearing the end of the program and getting your first job? If so, what helped you through that? Thanks and welcome back!

Dee December 17, 2013 11:22 AM

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