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Life of a PTA

The Resignation

Published March 28, 2014 12:40 PM by Allison Young

Last week, I resigned from my first PTA job. It was stressful and I was anxious about my director of rehab's response, but it was time. As I've blogged over the past few weeks, I was finding myself more frustrated than I've ever felt with the job and my morale was at an all-time low. After covertly interviewing in the early morning hours at a few different facilities, I had accepted a generous offer (above my asking hourly wage) from another inpatient setting closer to my home.

Having worked at this current facility for exactly three years now, when I sat down with my DOR to break the news, he was disappointed but not surprised. I stated the simple facts: This new opportunity would offer me an easier lifestyle as I would be cutting my commute time in half and I would have more time for my kids in the evenings. I also felt compelled to mention the significant pay raise they were offering. I prefaced the "news" with the positives of my current position with his company, which included the outstanding team of therapists I work with daily.

My boss was kind enough to state that he was losing a great therapist and that no matter where I go, I'll be an asset to that rehab department. As well, he offered to be a reference contact in the future. Before I left his office though, he also gave me this final pearl of wisdom: Change can be good in this industry. Although there are certainly many advantages to staying with the same facility/clinic for years, when you push past your comfort zone, you can only benefit as a therapist from the new experiences and clinicians you'll meet along the way.

So in two more weeks, I'll be heading off to greener pastures (closer to home, at least). Whether this new company is the right fit for me is to be determined. But I'm confident I'm heading in the right direction.

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Dan- This is not a matter of debate or opinion. PTAs are licensed therapists. Fact.

It's really sad and ignorant on your part that you work in the field and do not realize this. I feel bad for any PTAs who have to work with you. I know I never would.

"A PTA referring to themselves as a therapist is misleading to those they interact with. " -How is it "misleading" to refer to ourselves as what we are?

"they would be instructed that referring to themselves as a therapist is misleading and inappropriate." -Again, not misleading in any way. And if you "instructed" me on that I would be incredibly insulted and probably end my employment with you.

"They could be accused of practicing PT without a license if they refer to themselves as a therapist." -This is seriously making me laugh. We ARE licensed. It seems you are mixing up PTAs/LPTAs (which stands for Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant) with physical therapy aids or techs. Not the same.

Please educate yourself, as you clearly have no idea what you are talking about. It's shameful, really.

PTA March 31, 2014 6:34 PM

Thanks for all the well wishes and feedback everyone. Nicholas brings up a valid point and question regarding whether PTAs consider themselves "therapists". I can only answer for myself and "yes" I do consider myself a therapist- not physical therapist. Upon meeting patients, I always introduce myself as "Allison, PTA" and review who their primary PT is and the goals set by this PT- so there is no confusion. In the PT setting I work in, I treat the patient 4 out of the 5 days of the week including progress and document the sessions (On the fifth day, the primary PT will treat the patient, of course) So patients will naturally consider me their "therapist" as well.  I see how one could not call a CNA, "a nurse" for example but PTA is a challenging two year degreed program-we're not there to become "techs". We're taught to be critical thinkers, life long learners and patient advocates- if this isn't the definition of a therapist, I'm not sure what is. This is an interesting argument and I can certainly see both points of view- definitely one for future discussion. Thanks again for reading.  

Allison March 30, 2014 8:49 PM

Congrats on your new adventure.  Hope it all goes well.  

As far as the "therapist" title, I am often introduced as "one of the therapists".  I have also been introduced as "one of the therapy aides".  

Titles don't mean a whole lot to me as long as we are working towards the same goal of getting the patients better.  

Dan Curtis please look up your practice act and review it.  Florida Statute 486.135 and 486.151 does not differentiate the term "Therapist" in reference between a PT and PTA.   As a PTA, I cannot control what the public thinks I am.  

Jason Marketti March 30, 2014 12:58 AM

I agree with the comments that Nicholas made with regards to the use of the term "therapist."  Allison should not be referring to herself as a therapist nor should her director.  The use of this term is extremely misleading and inappropriate for an ASSISTANT to use.  They are an assistant to the therapist and should refer to themselves as such.  A PTA referring to themselves as a therapist is misleading to those they interact with.  For example, if a PTA refers to themselves as a therapist with a patient, the patient will think that they are the PT.  It is the responsibility of the assistant to clearly identify themselves to the patient with their title, which is an assistant not a therapist!

If any PTA that was working under my supervision or in my facility referred to themselves as a therapist I would have a discussion with them and they would be instructed that referring to themselves as a therapist is misleading and inappropriate.

Any PTA that is using this terminology should take note.  They could be accused of practicing PT without a license if they refer to themselves as a therapist.

Dan Curtis, PT, DPT, MTC March 29, 2014 10:01 PM
Orlando FL

This is to the first commenter, Nicholas. (I'm wondering what your profession is.)

Of course PTAs are therapists and are rightly referred to as such. PTAs are educated, licensed professionals that must uphold to the same standards of treatment, professionalism, and quality of patient care that PTs (and other healthcare professionals) must follow. Please don't let the "A' in the title confuse you or mistake us for rehab techs or aides.

Please explain the "significant difference" in education and responsibility. Yes, PTs go through a longer educational program, but on a day-to-day basis (especially in the inpatient setting), the type of work is almost the same. Both disciplines learned the same human body, correct? The only significant difference in the daily job is amount of paperwork PTs must do, and the evaluations.

I'd like to point out that although PTAs don't do evaluations, we are trained to know the same information and skills needed to perform one. We measure ROM, we manual muscle test, etc. And in some facilities, it's the PTA's job to update the information in the evaluation; which means, we need to know how to do one. They just call it a re-evaluation.

PTAs are also permitted to work under "general supervision" which means that they can treat patients, make clinical decisions about how to progress the plan of care and perform skilled interventions without a PT even physically present in the same building.

The word "assistant" in the title is misleading (and not an accurate representation of what we do) and gives people (like you) the wrong impression about just how educated and skilled we are. We have our own caseloads, our own patients, write our notes, perform re-evals, and are responsible for the people we treat. I rarely "assist" anyone while I'm working. Most of the time at my outpatient PRN job, I am the only licensed healthcare professional in the clinic and I'm responsible for every single patient there. I have techs assisting ME.

So yes, PTAs ARE therapists.

I don’t know what you do for a living, but please educate yourself about the PTA profession, especially if you have to interact with any of them at your job.

To Allison, I’m sorry about hijacking your comment section. What he said just rubbed me the wrong way. Best of luck to you at your new job!

a therapist March 29, 2014 2:33 PM

I must admit that this is the first blog post of yours that I've read, so I know nothing of your background, training, or use of language. As a follower of Advance on facebook, it randomly caught my attention. My question- do PTA's commonly refer to themselves as "therapists?" During my limited time at an inpatient facility, I was struck by the outdated use of the terms "doc" in reference to the physician and "therapist" for the doctors of physical therapy. Though I understand that change can be slow and difficult, I'm concerned when it appears as though OT's, PT's, OTA's, & PTA's are casually grouped together linguistically, especially by those working in the field who know the significant difference in education and responsibility when you shed the "A" after PT. I mean no disrespect, and I'm genuinely curious to hear your take on the matter.

Nicholas March 29, 2014 2:07 AM

Sounds like you are moving on for all the right reasons. It also sounds like you have achieved the maximum available growth from your current job.

Good luck and I'm looking forward to reading how it all works out!

Dean Metz March 28, 2014 2:19 PM

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