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Life of a PTA

The Age Factor

Published January 10, 2014 5:53 PM by Allison Young

When I started my journey into the physical therapy field, I found myself surrounded by eager SPTA students, like myself, beginning a new career. Nearly half the people in my graduating class from PTA school were over the age of 40. Many had children and degrees in other fields, but all of us were unwavering in our mutual goal to become PTAs.

I now find myself working with more than one of my fellow "older" students on our SNF rehab team. In fact, there is currently no therapist under the age of 35 in the PT department. Although I have worked with plenty of talented "20-something" therapists over the past few years, I find the most successful therapists in the SNF setting are those with a bit of life experience of their own.

One of these therapists is my colleague Fred, who I've talked about in a past blog or two. Fred is unapologetically 61 years old, white-haired and has been a PTA for as long as I have. In fact, we sat next to each other in class during the entire PTA program. Nicknamed "Dr. Fred" by the staff due to so many patients mistaking him for the facility MD, Fred has the ability to charm even the toughest patient.

Fred and all of my fellow therapists on the team bring a quality to their work that cannot be taught or earned in a degree; and that's wisdom (along with a large dose of compassion). Does this make Fred or I more successful at the job than the newly graduated 27-year-old DPT? Of course not! But years of working in vastly different jobs, raising kids and experiencing the effects of aging personally can only assist in being more relatable to our patients.

In three short months, I'll be turning 40 myself. A few years ago, I would've cringed at the thought of this milestone because (as I would tell myself) 40 is middle-age -- it's the beginning of being "Old." Today, I embrace the number. My age has only helped me become a kinder and more patient therapist. And if Fred is any indication, my future looks very promising. Did you enter PT as an "older" therapist or do you have a "Fred" type in your office or gym? Have you found age (whether old or young) to be a benefit in regard to patient relatability during treatments?

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Allison, I just graduated and will be 42 in 2 weeks yikes!  There were 3 students in my class over 40 married with children.

Myra Jones August 5, 2014 7:49 PM

I was the oldest in my class...38 years old! I found that my teachers were less concerned with my patient interaction due to having more life experiences than my younger 20 year old classmates. Now that I'm in the clinic I feel that my patients have more respect for me because they assume that I've been doing this for a while!

Mary Stapert, , PTA CAH January 16, 2014 1:55 PM

Allison, I liked your blog/ comments on older PTA's.   I also enjoy working with "Fred" he is fun to work with, has a great attitude and a ton of patience.

steve, PT - PTA, SNF January 14, 2014 2:21 AM
PortOrchard WA

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