The 18-Year-Old PTA
During the first week of PTA school, our director announced that the median age of the class was 33.5 years old. We students, spanning from age 20-55, had come from all walks of life. I remember a few fellow classmates had just received BS degrees from 4-year colleges and others were entering physical therapy as a fourth or fifth job incarnation.
This age breakdown discussion was completed with my director announcing that "within a few years" the program would include 18-year-old students. His prophecy was correct and an 18-year-old did enter the program within the following year's cohort.
How can one graduate from an accredited PTA program by the age of 18, you may ask? The same junior college that runs the program also offers a "Running Start" program for high school students that allows them to take general education college courses in lieu of college prep classes at their high school.
Therefore, a studious and focused 16-year-old can earn credits toward an associate's degree as well as her diploma. A 17-year-old student can easily complete the prerequisite courses and apply to the PTA program before she even turns 18.
The question the program director posed to the class, which has been proven over the years since, is the following: Does an 18-year-old PTA have enough life experience or "people skills" to be a successful clinician? As well, will it be more difficult for a younger PTA to secure a job versus another "older" prospected hire?
I like to think a smart, energetic PTA (who also happens to be a teenager) would be a perfect fit for certain PT clinics and facilities. Depending on the clientele, an 18-year-old might be the best choice for the job, bringing youthful energy and enthusiasm. Not to mention their neurons are firing quicker than most (well, at least mine).
Ultimately, the old adage "Live your age, don't act your age" can apply to my young counterparts just as much my patients. I've met more than a few mature and responsible teens, as I have careless and disinterested middle-age folks in the medical profession over the years.
What's your opinion regarding the young and ambitious PTAs graduating today? Would you hire a fresh-faced 18-year-old PTA in your clinic or facility? If you are a "young" PTA, what has your professional experience been like so far? I would love to hear from you!