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Raising the Bar in Rehab

PhDs and ‘Physical Therapy Assistants'

Published June 6, 2013 11:37 AM by Lisa Mueller

Over the past few months I've noticed a few things about the physical therapy profession that caught my attention, and I wanted to describe the situations here. 

First, I was speaking with a physical therapist about the doctorate program education for physical therapists, and she responded, "I think it's a really good thing that they are making physical therapists have their PhD now." We continued our discussion about the degree and the role of experience and mentorship, but I believe this individual didn't know the different between a clinical doctorate of physical therapy and an academic PhD. It's possible that because PhD degrees are more common across many different professions, the term "doctorate" is automatically linked to it. Having the credentials of "DPT" is less common.

Second, I see an abundance of job postings on LinkedIn for "Physical Therapy Assistant." I ignored the posts for a while but on a recent posting I commented that the title should be updated to "Physical Therapist Assistant." That's the correct title. I see this happen a lot, actually. I wonder if this happens in other professions.

I feel like our profession works hard to move forward. We have delegates working for direct access. We have clinicians contributing to evidence-based practice. But, how can we advance our profession if there are still people both within and external to our profession who are confused about the basics of our educational programs and job titles?

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Semantics Semantics! Rather I assist with Physical Therapy or I assist  The Therapist I still do my job professionally, legally and ethically. "Just don't call me late for dinner!" The organization has been around for ages and LAQ and Knee extension and lower leg extension are still being used to state the same movement. You can go on and on about Semantics. 2020 is APTA's goal for the DPT. Let's see what happens then. Bicker, Bicker, Bicker sounds real professional to me!!!!!!!

Don Meadows August 26, 2013 1:41 PM

All good points.  But the reality is still that all "PT's" sit the same boards and receive the same reimbursement.  Until that changes there really is no difference.  Yes we in the profession might see a difference but I'm not sure anyone else does.  To be honest I've worked in the profession for over 18 years and worked with all levels of the degree.  It is still hard to compare a 4 year, full time program to a 2 year advanced program.  Maybe we're fooling ourselves into seeing the king's new clothes.  I will still treat all PT's with respect and hope that they do the same to me.

Joseph, PTA July 7, 2013 10:20 PM

Very valid points....and scary! But I'd also point out that much of the public doesn't know the difference between a PTA and a PT. Example: My son--an intelligent college student--is going to a PT for some orthopedic issues. When he arrives for his appointment, he's assigned to either a PT or a PTA. There appears to be good continuity of care and adequate notes. But he has no idea who the PTs are and who the PTAs are. Or the different educational requirements. Those within the profession hopefully know the difference. It's important to understand, though, that patients and clients frequently don't.

Don July 1, 2013 7:56 PM
Fairfax VA

I find it absurd that a colleague would not know the movement toward a doctoring profession and the DPT.  Pretty ridiculous actually.  My guess is they are not a member of our professional association.

The posting and PTA is just ignorance on those placing the job postings.

Dan June 6, 2013 8:20 PM

"Physical Therapist Assistant" because we assist the physical therapist.  An occupational THERAPY assistant assists the therapy.  Everyone makes this mistake.

Carolyn, Home Health - PTA June 6, 2013 4:11 PM
Las Vegas NV

Thank you for correcting Physical Therapist Assistant.  I have colleagues that are incorrect all the time. I explain that Physical Therapy is what we do

Jennifer June 6, 2013 3:45 PM

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