What is a PTA and How Do They Assist Physical Therapists?

I entered the PTA profession with a strong desire to guide patients in achieving their movement goals because I wanted patients to fully experience the activities that brought them joy. Although my role has changed over the course of my career, my desire to positively impact the health of community members remains constant.

Physical therapy practice optimizes movement to improve the quality of life for community members and patients. When a person has limitations in their movement, a physical therapist can evaluate the patient to determine the physical therapy diagnosis and set up the plan of care. From that point, the physical therapist assistant can provide skilled interventions such as therapeutic exercises, therapeutic activities, or manual therapy to guide patients toward reaching their activity goals. Using this PT-PTA model provides patients early access to the physical therapy evaluation, and PTAs are then able to provide consistent treatments within the plan of care, allowing clinics to serve more patients.


We see this team approach across other fields; for example, the physician–physician’s assistant and dentist-dental assistant relationships. Each of them works off the business model concept that patient volumes combined with valuable services produce good outcomes resulting in more growth and profitability for clinics.


I’ve seen firsthand the benefits this model provides both patients and providers. Because only PTs and PTAs are allowed to bill for physical therapy services, adopting a model that utilizes both providers leads to good outcomes and increased revenue. Through my work with clinical instructors for our program at Clarkson College, I’ve heard multiple examples of clinical partners who have strategically implemented the PT-PTA model to improve quality of care, patient and provider satisfaction, and profitability. As a result of the increased revenue, providers have benefited from additional support for continuing education, certifications, and new technologies for the practice.

With the PT-PTA model, patients experience a comprehensive team approach with diversity of thought as well as more options when it comes to scheduling appointments. This has a direct impact on producing good outcomes, and it allows practitioners like myself the opportunity to watch patients get back to the activities they enjoy.  Physical therapy services provided by licensed PT and PTA professionals make a difference in the health and well-being of their communities.

If you know of individuals who are interested in the PTA field, encourage them to check out the Clarkson College PTA program. Also, PTAs with an Associate’s degree can explore our Bachelor’s degree in PTA option.

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