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PTA Blog Talk

Just the Assistant

Published July 8, 2008 2:15 PM by Jason Marketti
Because I am a PTA do people look at me as "only an assistant" to the REAL therapist?

I have asked myself that question and have been told by patients and family members, "Oh, you're the assistant, can I talk to the therapist?" So, like everyone else who wanted to better themselves I went back to school.

My resume is quite impressive. Lots of jobs in different settings, plenty of experience, publications, CEUs, certificates and, of course, several degrees.

I have been told if I do not like being a PTA I should go back to school to become a PT. Sounds like a great idea until I took a look at tuition costs for me to become a PT. I would be better off becoming a nurse. So I went to nursing school. It didn't work out the way I planned and it took me away from my family too much so I abandoned that after a year. (I was taught great assessment skills though.)

Then I got to talking to some other PTAs who would consider the option to become a PT if the courses were made more available to them. Most of us had 10 plus years in the field and were fairly adept at our skills and confident in our knowledge that we could become PTs if we wouldn't have to take A and P, chemistry, biology, etc., all over again. Apparently some schools "expire" the courses on the transcripts if they are more than 5 years old. Does human anatomy and the basic chemical make up of living organisms change that rapidly?

What a PTA with 10 plus years of experience would need is primarily evaluation and assessment skills. Yeah, we could throw in a couple of review courses (keep them condensed and brief) then get on with the clinical part of the program. I think a one-year intense clinical training program for a PTA with 10 years in the field would be a good transitional program. How many of us with that many years in the field would actually do it if it was a year program?

7 comments

I must say that after 15 years as a PTA, I am more than tired of hearing why there is no career advancement other than a degree in rehab studies.  I have never met a PT that thought it was fair- especially when I train tons of foreign PT's who have less education and are given a ton of breaks.  I asked one time at an APTA convention if I could go to the Phillipines and finish there then come back if my degree would be honored.  I was told NO?  I just looked up the APTA's comment on this and it was stated that for a PTA to become a PT it is not "career advancement" it is a "career change"?  I have COTA's and nurse friends who are so glad that their association doesn't treat them like that.  One of my friends started as a CNA, then advanced one degree at a time (due to money/raising a family) and now she is graduating as a nurse practitioner...come on APTA.  

cindy, geriatric/outpatient - PTA March 28, 2011 6:13 PM
omaha NE

There is a bridge program http://www.apta.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=CAPTE3&Template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=49543

Daniel Faiella February 20, 2010 7:54 PM
Buffalo NY

We are probably one of the few professions that does not allow greater opportunities. There is no reason why bridge programs should not be developed for PTA's. Techs can become PTA's without the school, there are online PTA programs, COTA's have programs to become OT's and LPN's have programs to become a RN. These a just a few that I am aware of at this time. I have 25+ years of experience in all areas of therapy and cannot take several years to continue to become a PT. I would jump at the chance for a bridge program!!!

Dianne, PTA December 1, 2008 9:07 PM

A program like that would encourage a lot of PTA's to make the transition.  I have 13yrs. experience and would love a program like that.

Robert F., Sr. PTA October 7, 2008 1:45 PM

A program like that would encourage a lot of PTA's to make the transition.  I have 13yrs. experience and would love a program like that.

Robert F., Sr. PTA October 7, 2008 1:45 PM

I too have 16 plus years of experience as a PTA and feel i am very competant in my skills.  I don't think it is fair for me to have to go through many more years of school to get the degree of a DPT.  I know I have more skills and experience than any of those graduating with this degree.  Why shouldn't I have the opportunity to become a PT with only 1 year of school?  Why must things be so difficult?

Michelle Heath, PTA/CMT July 28, 2008 9:03 PM
Braintree MA

This is an interesting scenario regarding your comment of a transitional program for PTA to PT. If a program were to be developed in the way you have mentioned or in the same vien I would not mind going back to school.

I also have a varied resume with several advance degrees, CEU's, developing programs, etc. plus 16 yrs experience. So I am glad that they're others out there that feel the same way I do.

So hopefully in the future a program as you have mentioned will come to be. Good Idea.

Michael Mitarotondo, Geriatrics - Therapy Manager, Lohg-term care July 12, 2008 9:07 PM
Chicago IL

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About this Blog


    Jason J. Marketti
    Occupation: Physical Therapist Assistant
    Setting: San Jacinto, CA
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