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Abstract

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.

Author Bio(s)

Jennifer L. Jewell, PT, DPT, GCS, is a Teaching Professor and Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education in the Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Penn State Shenango in Sharon, PA. She is a licensed physical therapist in the state of Pennsylvania and Chair of the Academy of Education Physical Therapist Assistant Educators Special Interest Group.

Pamela J. Pologruto, PT, DPT, is an Associate Teaching Professor and Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education in the Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus in Lemont Furnace, PA. She is a licensed physical therapist in the state of Pennsylvania and serves as a member of the APTA PA Practice and Research Committee.

Beverly A Labosky, PTA, BA is a licensed physical therapist assistant in the state of Pennsylvania. She is the secretary of the Academy of Education Physical Therapist Assistant Educators Special Interest Group.

Gina Tarud, PT, DPT, is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Penn State Hazleton in Hazleton, PA. She is a licensed physical therapist in the state of Pennsylvania.

Acknowledgements

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.

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