The Importance of Mentorship
Although having only been a PTA for three years, I've found myself in conversations with many potential future SPTA candidates. Quite a few have been with bright and hardworking CNAs who I work with in skilled nursing and others have been with folks my age or older (that would be the 40+ set if you were wondering) looking into PTA as a second or third career.
For those seeking direction about entering the physical therapy field -- I say this: The accredited PTA programs available are incredibly challenging, so be prepared to study and be tested weekly for almost two years without a significant break. I don't mince words or sugarcoat the process because people need to understand the commitment level you take on as a SPTA. However, when you've earned your degree and pass the state board -- you'll be working in a vastly varied field where your choice of setting and patient type can range from the local gym with a 12-year-old soccer player to the hospital with a 90-year-old recovering from hip surgery.
Whichever setting and patient group they ultimately choose to work with, I tell them they have to love it. If you're passionate about orthopedic PT but working in a skilled nursing setting with little exposure to ortho conditions, maybe it's time to make a job switch. Patients will know if your heart's not "in it" and frankly, you've worked too hard to just "phone it in" at work daily. Having said that -- give each PT setting a try, whether job shadowing a PTA or when choosing your clinical affiliations.
Personally, I find discussing the PTA profession with other interested parties to be one of my duties as a licensed healthcare professional in this field. Physical therapy has given me a profound insight into the human condition as well as myself. Providing advice and mentoring future PTAs can only support the long-term strength of the profession.