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Toni Talks about PT Today

Specialization and Skill or Low Salary?

Published April 18, 2012 12:49 PM by Toni Patt

Recently I've found myself looking at the available positions in Houston. I never thought I would be doing this again but here I am. Things have changed since I last looked. There are more jobs posted than previously. Salaries are higher. No one seems to be looking for anyone with experience.

While there are more job listings, there don't seem to be that many looking for a PT. For every one posting for a PT, there were at least two for a PTA. The higher salaries probably are a result of the increased cost of living than anything PT-related. PTs are being paid more because they have to be paid more. I wasn't making extravagant money when I worked for the evil empire but probably toward the upper end of my range. I was shocked to find positions offering as much as $8/hour less than I made.

Every posting stated a graduate of an accredited school but none required a DPT. All but one specified a bachelor's degree. One wanted a master's. With the exception of the local women's hospital, no one wanted any certification or specific experience. Some mentioned providing training in manual therapy. One offered to pay for an NCS. It seems facilities would rather hire inexperience and pay for the training over time than pay up front for the skills.

The most experience required for a position was four years. After that, the experience must become too expensive. That or there is a mistaken perception floating around that PTs learn everything in the first four years after graduation. Additional experience is unnecessary.

Every one of these observations supports the preference of lower salary over knowledge and experience. I'm sure those facilities would take someone with more skill as long as they didn't have to pay extra for it. PTAs, who make less than PTs, are in higher demand. I don't think any new DPTs are going to be paying off loans too quickly.

The bottom line has usurped quality of care in hiring staff. Facilities would rather pay less money than pay for skill. The APTA needs to take notice. It is pushing for PTs to become certified specialists. The implication is facilities will recognize this and readily hire those therapists. I don't think so. They might hire them, but not because of the certification, maybe in spite of it.

Is ours the only profession that kicks experience to the side in exchange for the bottom line? Physicians are encouraged to specialize. So are nurses to some extent. Experienced professionals in both of those disciplines are viewed with respect. That isn't so in physical therapy. It's obviously not so in the hiring process nor in some of the departments where I have worked. But that is a blog for another day.


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February 9, 2013 4:53 PM

I guess that's why they call it Vision 2020. The inevitable droop in experience will lead to unsatisfied patients...requiring clinics to hire those with actual skill. I hear people all the time saying that they wish the masters was still around so they could get a cheaper edu, and 100% of the time they would say " because all we need to do is pass the NPTE and bar to practice."  I think that's the general mindset...just get the edu done so you can practice and that's the end of it. Hopefully in several years it will change. Unfortunately this will probably wipe out the PTA's.

Also, we would have more respect if they would change "physical therapy" to " physiotherapy".  Sounds better and everyone else is doing it. Hell Australia is doing it...and they aren't too shabby.

William Sanders, limbo - notevenaptyet May 27, 2012 11:47 PM

Toni, excellent post.  

First, devils advocate.  If you were running a health care business and the bottom line mattered so you could continue running the business because reimbursements were cut what would you do?

Second, this is good news for PTA's.  We should celebrate.

Third, this is not good news for PTA's with lots of knowledge and experience.

Fourth, reimbursements are the same whether a PT or PTA sees the patient (except in one state). This goes back to the first one.

Undereducated therapy staff will eventually cause poor outcomes then the places will shift and begin to hire only those with experience.  And when patients complain then maybe something will be done.  Ideally having knowledgable staff such as yourself should be a no brainer for employers.

You are 100% correct about when MD's and nsg have specialization.  They are viewed differently and are paid for their knowledge.  In therapy we are reimbursed what insurance companies say we are worth.  Maybe we need to bill the patient directly like the MD's do when the insurance doesn't cover the full amount for a specialist.

Jason Marketti April 19, 2012 10:32 PM

I have to completely agree with your blog. As a PTA wanting to become more rounded as a clinician I have added to my education, (CSCS, LMT) in hopes that employers would identify a more rounded skilled clinician. Boy was I wrong. While I have received commnets like, "your background is impressive", positions I have applied for often go to new PTA grads with less credentials or experience. I wouldnt trade my added knowledge for anything and am glad I accomplished it for myself, but most people dont care.

Brian Kapel, PT - PTA April 19, 2012 8:56 AM
Delaware OH

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