Purpose: To find trends in utilization and practice of the physical therapist assistant (PTA) in the clinical setting and to assess current clinician views on the expected future direction for the education of the PTA. Method/Subjects: An electronic survey was sent to all accredited PT and PTA programs in United States requesting the survey be forwarded to physical therapist and physical therapist assistant faculty, alumni and clinical instructors in their geographic region for completion. Results: PTAs are a vital part of physical therapy practice. Forty percent of respondents reported that greater than 50% of direct patient interventions are typically delegated to a PTA. Most common interventions not performed by the PTA but is considered a delegable activity include manual techniques and manual muscle testing. Survey results indicated current challenges faced in delivery of healthcare services related to the role of the PTA to be: lack of PTA career development opportunities (n=615), underutilization of the PTA skills/ services (n=585) and productivity standards (n=545). Physical therapist respondents (72.5%) reported they completed informal skill training or mentoring with the PTA in the clinic to allow for tasks to be delegated to the PTA. There was consensus among both PT (52.5%, n=399) and PTA’s (53.8%, n=472) that a transition that included a baccalaureate degree was the appropriate career path for the PTA. Conclusions: When coupled with the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) reports of entry level practice expectations, this report could prove valuable in future decision-making regarding PTA degree expectations as well as educational requirements and training to meet the needs of those seeking physical therapy services within our current and future healthcare system.
We thank our colleague, Laura Cruz, PhD from Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence at Penn State-University Park, who provided insight and expertise that greatly assisted with this project.
Jewell J, Pologruto P, Labosky B, Tarud G. Transformation of the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA): A Survey of Current Practice and Education. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. 2022 Jan 03;20(1), Article 4.