The Role of a Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist Assistant

A physical therapist (PT) goes to school for six to seven years to receive a degree in physical therapy. Schools in the U.S. are transitioning to a doctoral level PT degree and requiring PT students to earn a DPT.

In the work place, physical therapists perform the evaluation and set-up a plan of care. They are responsible for the supervision of Physical Therapist Assistants (PTA) and PT aides. Only PTs can change the plan of care and perform certain treatments.

PTAs spend most of their time working directly with patients in a hands-on capacity. They have input into the plan of care and report to the PT. The PTA  is responsible for carrying out the plan of care; treating the patient; and interacting with the family, doctor and other caregivers to maximize the patient’s function. 

The PTA works under the direction and supervision of the PT. Depending upon the regulations of the state in which you practice, the PT may or may not need to be physically present. Each state has a different “practice act” that defines how PTs and PTAs work together.

 

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