What Does It Mean To Be A PTA?

A physical therapist assistant is a superhero

Yes, you read that right! PTAs are superheros. Sure, we might not be on the same level as the cast of characters that you see on any one of the 1500 Marvel movies coming out of Hollywood these days, but physical therapist assistants are a special breed of hero. We are the Robin to every Batman. That’s an appropriate analogy because every PT believes that they are a genius and/or superhero, so PTAs might as well join in the fun.

physical therapist assistant superhero
Image by ErikaWittlieb from Pixabay

Being a physical therapist assistant is all about adaptability. We PTAs are experts at providing care in many settings under the direction of many different therapists. It is a unique role that requires technical skill, but also a heck of a lot of those soft skills that often are overlooked. We serve the patient first and foremost, but we also juggle responsibilities and communications with the PT who is supervising the care. We might not be legally allowed to do certain things that PTs can (which varies a lot based on state practice acts) but we still get to use some cool gadgets and have a say in what the plan of attack is.

Robin didn’t get the headlines, but he did do a bunch of cool stuff. Let’s not forget that. PTAs are in the same position. It takes a special kind of person to be able to balance the responsibilities and skills required to be a physical therapist assistant. Sometimes you even wear a uniform! But sometimes that uniform is a polo, khakis, and brown dress shoes…

You’re not “just” a PTA

I joke around a lot and have fun being self-deprecating, but let’s get something out of the way right now – you aren’t “just a PTA.” PTAs have more training than they’re usually given credit for. The DPT degree traditionally is a 3 year degree. PTAs spend the bulk of 2 years learning their craft. This ain’t some weekend course that you can get online. Sometimes I joke with my PT friends that they shouldn’t be so hard on themselves because they’re “just a PT” and wait to see how long it takes them for that joke to register.

One great thing about being a physical therapist assistant is that once you get your license, it opens doors to all kinds of cool stuff. Did you realize that you can own a clinic as a PTA, or be a clinic manager, or run specialized programs in settings like home health, or obtain certifications that open even more doors that are beyond clinical practice? Yeah, there are even PTAs who also hold advanced degrees (Master’s, Doctorate, and PhD) in related fields or other areas like education and research. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Hold your damn head high, PTAs!

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a pat on the back. If you’re a PTA who has read this far, take the rest of the day off and go make yourself a fancy cocktail. Here’s to a profession that allows you to do a bunch of really cool things, get a decent wage, and not a ton of debt. Hold your head high and believe in yourself and your abilities. Unless, of course, you’re one of the therapists out there who give minimal effort at your job. If that’s you, you really need to up your game or find a new gig. This career isn’t for everyone, so don’t waste your life doing something you don’t enjoy (or hate).

Keep kicking ass out there, fellow PTAs! #PTAsArePeopleToo

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