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Toni Talks about PT Today

The PTA Student Who Only Wants to Do Orthopedics

Published August 12, 2014 9:35 AM by Toni Patt
Last month we had a PTA student at my facility. The other PT was his CI because while schedule facilitates time at the barn, no one else wants to start work at 6 in the morning. From the beginning, the student made it clear he planned to work in an outpatient orthopedic clinic. I believe he had already lined up a job.

I didn't think much about it until a doctor wanted a functional assessment of an incomplete SCI patient. Because I'm the neuro person, the student asked me. I tried to explain the ASIS scale to him. He didn't know what it was, which didn't surprise me. What surprised me was his attitude. He didn't want to know. He said he was going to treat orthopedic patients so it wasn't that important.

My response was pointing out there will be an ASIA question somewhere on the exam. He will need to know it to pass his neurological course. I guess he plans on memorizing for the exam and then forgetting like everything else neurological.

It seems like all students want to either do orthopedics or pediatrics. But this is the first time I've heard anyone be so dismissive of neurological principles. The sad fact is, as much as I wouldn't want to, if a total joint patient rolled into the gym I could treat the patient. I wouldn't enjoy it but I could do it. If a stroke patient ends up at an ortho clinic, they are clueless. Unless it's someone with minimal impairment, they don't know what to do.

I didn't bother to give this guy an attitude adjustment. Sometimes you just have to let nature take its course. It's bad enough that wherever I go, I hear the DPT graduates aren't prepared for anything but to be called doctor. Now I've met this guy who seems to think a good part of physical therapy education isn't necessary.

Is the problem us? Is it the programs? Did he just not say anything to anyone previously? Had he been my student, I would have called the program. All of the previous students I've encountered have been told to keep biases to themselves and concentrate on the current setting. I hope this one was the exception to the rule.

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When I was in my OTA program there were students who just wanted to do hands. They did not want fieldwork (clinical) where they would have to do transfers .

Roberta Abbott, PTA/COTA November 27, 2015 1:53 PM
Ocala FL

I dont know why you were not surprised that the student didn't know the ASIA scale. It is taught in PTA school or at least it should be. We cover it several times in our program.  I agree with you about the students attitude.  I get students like that sometimes.  I often say that someone could come to an ortho clinic with a ortho injury but have neurological issues as well and they need to be familiar with all systems.

Mike Fritz, Professor August 13, 2014 6:18 PM
Danvers MA

I find that astounding, I have been at PTA for over 13 years. A CI on 3 occasions. While my passion, interest and most experience is in ortho rehab I have also worked in neuro, specialization in gait training, sports performance and geriatric. I find all aspects of rehab and PT interesting. Also, being familiar with all aspects of PT makes you a well rounded rehabilitation professional!!

richard cabello, orthopedics - PTA, per-diem August 12, 2014 10:10 PM
brooklyn NY

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