Purpose: The purpose of this study was to assess physical therapist (PT) and physical therapist assistant (PTA) students' attitudes toward working in a team, direction and supervision, preparation for effective communication, and respect for and the value of physical therapist/physical therapist assistant (PT/PTA) teams following an interactive classroom session via a brief online questionnaire.

Methods: PT students in the second year of their doctor of physical therapy graduate studies in St Louis, MO and PTA students in the second year of their associate’s degree program in St Louis, MO were involved. A questionnaire was completed prior to and after attending an interactive classroom session. The interactive session included four stations; curriculum and education, communication and documentation, PT/PTA teamwork scenarios in different practice settings, and social interaction. The questionnaire consisted of six questions asking students to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement.

Results: Attendance status at the interactive session was related to student responses on the questionnaire for both PT and PTA students. Among PTA students, responses on three of six questionnaire items were found not to be independent of attendance status. PTA students indicated they felt more prepared for PT/PTA communication, had more respect for the similarities in roles of PTs and PTAs, and felt more strongly that effective PT/PTA teams were essential to optimal patient care. Among the PT student population, the only questionnaire item found to be independent of interactive session attendance status was the belief in effective PT/PTA teams. Generally, students’ responses tended to be more positive after attending the interactive session, with “Strongly agree” responses increasing by as much as 24 percent on some questionnaire items. Increases in weighted means for PTA students were not found to be statistically significant; however, among PT students these increases were significant across three questionnaire items.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that both PT and PTA students experienced increased comfort with the idea of working as part of a PT/PTA team after the interactive event where communication was the focus. The affective behavior of “comfort” in working as part of a PT/PTA team increased in our study among both PT and PTA students. The interactive session was easy to implement and had no cost associated with it. Follow-up study or methodologies could provide more robust results to further support these findings. This activity could also be replicated across healthcare professions that utilize professional and paraprofessional assistant relationships.

Author Bio(s)

Kelly Hawthorne PT, DPT, GCS, CEEAA, is an Assistant Professor in the Program in Physical Therapy at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, MO. She is a physical therapist in the state of Missouri.

Christina Cohoon PT, DPT, OCS, is an Associate Professor in the Physical Therapist Assistant Program at St. Louis Community College in St. Louis, MO. She is a physical therapist in the state of Missouri.

Eric Chambers BA, MPA, is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Institutional Research and Planning at St. Louis Community College in St. Louis, MO.


We would like to thank Ms. Julie High MS, PT, Program Coordinator of the Physical Therapist Assistant Program at St. Louis Community College, and Rebecca Helbling, Professor and Reference Librarian at St. Louis Community College for their assistance.





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