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PTA Blog Talk

"There's My Therapist"

Published September 14, 2011 10:25 PM by Jason Marketti

I have heard this phrase many times as I walked the halls of a hospital or passed by rooms in a SNF. Patients point me out to their family and friends and sometimes it feels good to be acknowledged by the patients and singled out as someone who has made a difference in their lives.

Now here's the kicker - do I correct them and say, "No, I am the PTA; your physical therapist was the one who initiated activity with you and did your evaluation?" Or should I simply say, "Hi," and keep stepping down the hall. I think some patients will call anyone who does exercises with them a therapist. Rehab aides and restorative nurses have been referred to as therapists in some places I have been; partly because when they exercise, they go to the rehab gym or therapy room and patients incorrectly think everyone there is a therapist.

I do not portray myself as a PT and will tell patients that the physical therapist wants to see them to make sure we are on the right track for their progress. But patients will still call me their therapist. My name tag clearly states I am a PTA (it is spelled out under my name) and if we take a liberal view of it, I am a therapist, just not a physical therapist.


Thank you for the comments.  I seldom explain the difference or go into detail regading PT/PTA anymore unless the person asks.  It can be confusing for some and other pateints do not care.  

Jason Marketti September 19, 2011 9:58 AM

I completley agree with your assessment of why they refer to you as a therapist and with Dr. Patt's comment.  

There is a time  and place for patient education.  So, if you were a PT/PTA who perceived "therapist" was used incorrectly and felt the need to inform the patient of his/her technical error, this hallway exchange isn't the time or the place to do it.  This is a time to acknowledge the patient/therapist bond so that in a private setting he/she may be more receptive to the information you wish to present.  To make an issue of it in the hallway could be construed as disrespectful toward the patient and harm the rapport evident in the patient having initiated that interchange.

Nice, thought provoking post.  Thanks.

Janey Goude September 16, 2011 3:46 AM

I don't think patients realize there is a difference between a PT and a PTA.  We both fall under the  heading of therapist.  I don't think you need to say anything when a patient refers to you as his or her therapist.  You are the person providing the treatment. Therefore you are the therapist.  

Toni Patt September 14, 2011 7:38 PM

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About this Blog

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