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PTA Blog Talk

Canadian Assistants

Published January 6, 2009 4:45 PM by Jason Marketti

Tracy Dignum is the co-coordinator for the Rehabilitation Assistant Diploma Program at Capilao University.  I recently spoke with her about therapy assistants and training in Canada.

The assistant programs are two years in length with 500 hours of clinical field work with three placements in hospitals and rehabilitation clinics. Prior to 2004, the programs were one year in length. 

"The scope of practice is different for supervision and functions of the assistant. In Ontario a PTA can perform ultrasound but not in British Columbia. Also, assistants are double and sometimes triple trained for PT, OT, SLP, or Recreation Assistants," stated Dignum.

Capilano University has an assistant program with three clinicals which are five weeks in duration. Entrance to the program requires English, Science and volunteer hours. First aid, references, criminal background check, TB test, English placement test, and an oral interview are also required before admission. Classes of 20 students are taught by OTs, PTs and SLPs with the field work being in Canada, England or Australia. Students can ladder into bachelor's degree programs because of articulations with three universities. They will enter year three in a degree program.  

The assistants are not a regulated profession [yet] in Canada according to Silvia Elicagaray, custom relations representative for the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.  She suggested therapy assistants who are trained in America to contact citizenship and immigration policies and the provincial governments if they want to work in Canada.

Dignum is working on accreditation by working with National Associations for PT and OT and the ACCPAP (an accreditation organization), as well as establishing national standards due to having private colleges still teaching abbreviated programs.

As a PT assistant, I would not mind being cross-trained as an OTA or SLPA.  I think the training would be a great benefit to patient care and availability of treatment techniques. One of the benefits of their training is the ability of the assistant to go into a bachelor's degree program as a third-year student. Unfortunately in America, the AAS degrees don't always transfer into four-year degree institutions, but this should change soon. 

As the accreditation process develops in Canada, we may see more Canadian assistants in America.  I also suggested to Dignum about having some of their assistants come to America to train with us. This could work both ways; we can continue to develop better relations in the therapy community to learn and teach across the borders and with one another.

posted by Jason Marketti


I live and work in Canada and have looked at the differences in training for PTA's quite a bit. I find the structure for educational courses for APTA allow for PTA's to take some of the intensive learning experiences that they offer in women's health, and that has been a great benifit for my staff. In Canada a PTA would not be allowed to take such courses.

crystal westergard, orthopedics - physiotherapist, BRPT March 8, 2010 7:52 PM
Camrose AR


Good concept.  Why don't we exchange between our countries?  That would be an exceptional opportunity for both PT's and PTA's.

Hopefully Canada will get the assistants licensed so we can have them in the U.S.

Karen January 11, 2009 10:38 PM

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About this Blog

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