The Benefits of PTAs and PTs Working Together, According to a DPT

The collaborative partnership between the physical therapist (PT) and physical therapist assistant (PTA) is becoming more commonplace due to the many benefits it produces for practitioners and patients alike. 

One key advantage of the PT-PTA model is the level of focus it permits throughout the patient care experience. Rather than a single clinician assuming every responsibility for the patient’s plan of care, the PT and PTA take on separate roles while maintaining a direct line of communication with one another.

Differentiating the Role of the PT and PTA

PTs have earned a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), and part of their role is to make critical decisions related to a patient’s treatment plan. This includes ensuring physical therapy is a suitable mode of treatment, assessing and diagnosing the patient, formulating a plan of care, supervising the PTA, and reassessing and discharging the patient.

In turn, PTAs earn an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree and perform a large portion of hands-on care when working with patients to implement the PT’s prescribed plan of care. They use skilled interventions such as therapeutic exercises and activities or manual therapy to guide patients toward reaching their activity goals. The PTA regularly reports back to the PT with any notable signs of patient progress or areas of concern.

Benefits of the PT-PTA Model

Dr. Nathan Halm, DPT and instructor in the Clarkson College PTA program, knows from first-hand experience how the continuum of care between the PT and the PTA can not only lead to more positive patient outcomes, but also supports a more effective practice. “It allows companies to have increased flexibility while still being fiscally responsible and providing excellent quality of care,” said Dr. Halm. “The PTA also provides additional input and thought processes to the clinical decision-making process, which leads to more optimal patient outcomes.” 

Dr. Halm added how the PT-PTA partnership is one of practicality and convenience. “If the PT is sick or out of town, the PTA’s familiarity with the patient’s case and goals allows for treatment to continue in an effortless manner.”

Benefits of Becoming a PTA

Students can earn an Associate’s degree in PTA and begin working in the field in as little as two years, as opposed to eight years of school to become a PT. This, along with the opportunity to complete ongoing face-to-face interaction with patients, is an incentive that attracts many students to the role.PTA Degree Options

Clarkson College offers three different degree pathways to pursue a career as a licensed PTA:

  • An Associate’s degree in PTA with a traditional on-campus experience or a transfer hybrid option available.
  • A Bachelor’s degree in PTA to further develop your skills and enhance your marketability within the field.
  • A dual degree option where students can supplement their PTA education with a Bachelor’s degree in PTA, Community Health or Healthcare Business. 

Learn more about becoming a PTA and the program options available at Clarkson College.