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Health Professions: Physical Therapist Assistant: PTA FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is physical therapy?
  2. What does a physical therapist assistant (PTA) do?
  3. What tasks could a physical therapist assistant perform during a typical workday?
  4. What is the difference between a physical therapist and a physical therapist assistant?
  5. What is the difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy?
  6. What is the job outlook for the field of physical therapy?
  7. Can a physical therapist assistant become a physical therapist?
  8. What pre-requisites are needed when applying to TCC's PTA program?
  9. What are the qualifications for entry into the PTA program?
  10. How many applicants are admitted to the program each year?
  11. What is the total cost of the program?
  12. What are the career opportunities for a PTA?

 

  1. What is physical therapy?

    Physical therapy is the care and service provided by or under the supervision of a physical therapist to individuals in pain, or to those with impaired mobility after disease, illness, injury, or surgery. Physical Therapy clinicians work with individuals of all ages including, but not limited to, those who have suffered stroke, head injury, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, amputation, spinal cord injury, knee surgery, or shoulder injury.

  2. What does a physical therapist assistant (PTA) do?

    PTAs perform the majority of direct patient care visits once the PT has evaluated the patient and established the treatment plan.  They are employed in many practice settings including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, home health agencies, outpatient clinics, sports medicine clinics, private practice, industry, and school systems.  For more information visit:  AboutPTAs     
  3. What tasks could a physical therapist assistant perform during a typical workday?

    Depending on the setting in which you work, a typical day for a Physical Therapist Assistant may include:

    • Assisting patients after surgery or following a disease in basic skills such as: getting in and out of      bed, getting in and out of a chair, and walking.
    • Teaching exercises to strengthen and stretch weak and tight muscles.
    • Teaching balance and coordination exercises.
    • Teaching patients to walk again with an artificial leg.
    • Performing modalities such as ultrasound, traction, hydrotherapy, and electrical stimulation.
    • Promoting health and wellness in fitness centers and schools.
    • Consulting with employers and employees about preventing injury in the workplace.
    • Working with children of all ages on gaining independence for everyday activities such as sitting, eating, walking, and going to school.

     

  4. What is the difference between a physical therapist and a physical therapist assistant?

     

    A Physical Therapist holds a doctorate degree.  They are responsible for performing initial evaluations for new patients, higher-level skills such as joint mobilization, and supervising Physical Therapist Assistants.

    A PTA earns an associate’s degree in applied science, holds a state license to practice and works under the supervision of a PT. They perform the majority of direct patient care once the Physical Therapist has evaluated the patient and the treatment plan has been established.

  5. What is the difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy?

    Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists often work together as members of the health care team. Physical Therapy treatment focuses on assisting individuals regain or improve movement and mobility. Occupational Therapy treatment focuses on assisting individuals regain or improve self-care skills, work skills, and leisure skills.

  6. What is the job outlook for the field of physical therapy?

    Employment opportunities for PTAs are growing due to the rising costs of healthcare, an increase in the number of elderly and an increase in the number of sports injuries among adolescents. Over the past two years, all graduates from this program found employment either during their final clinical rotation or shortly after graduation.

    US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010 including descriptions, projections, and salary expectations: www.bls.gov/oco/ocos167.htm

     

  7. Can a physical therapist assistant become a physical therapist?

    A Physical Therapist Assistant can become a Physical Therapist. You must complete a Bachelor’s Degree in a related field such as Exercise Science or Biology. Then you apply to the Physical Therapist program, which awards the successful candidate an entry-level doctorate degree.

  8. What pre-requisites are needed when applying to TCC's PTA program?
    • BIO 141 (Human Anatomy and Physiology I)*
    • ENG 111 (College Composition I)*
    • PSY 230 (Developmental Psychology)
    • SDV 101 (Orientation to Healthcare)
    • HLT 130 (Nutrition and Diet Therapy)

                         *Curricular changes for 2014 Applicants*


Twenty hours of documented observation or work hours in each of two different physical therapy practice settings (i.e., outpatient and acute care, skilled nursing facility and outpatient, etc.) under the supervision of a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant. Forty hours total.
Two recommendation forms from employers, clinicians, or professors.
Recommend completion of BIO 142 (Human Anatomy and Physiology II), Humanities elective, and Social Sciences elective to earn points toward admission.

*BIO 141 may require that you first take NAS 2 if you have never taken or have not recently taken high school or college biology or chemistry. If you are unsure if you need to take one of these classes please speak to the Counseling Center by calling 757-822-7211.

*ENG 111 may require that you first take an English placement test to check your reading and writing skills. If you are unsure if you need to take one of these classes speak the Counseling Center by calling (757) 822-7211.

  1. What are the qualifications for entry into the PTA program?

    • Satisfactory verbal, reading, and written skills to effectively and promptly communicate in English.
    • Sufficient eyesight to read paper or computer generated medical records; read instrument panels; apply therapeutic modalities such as ice, heat, and electrical stimulation; monitor patients for adverse reactions to treatment; adjust assistive devices; and make visual observations regarding posture and functional abilities (bed mobility, transfers, and ambulation).
    • Sufficient hearing to communicate with patients and other members of the healthcare team, monitor patients by hearing instrument signals and alarms.
    • Sufficient smell to assess patient status and maintain a safe practice environment.
    • Sufficient fine touch discrimination to palpate pathologic changes in soft tissue.
    • Sufficient fine and gross motor coordination to manipulate/operate equipment controls and to perform manual treatment/assessment techniques including, but not limited to, massage; ultrasound; electrical stimulation; stretching; neuromuscular re-education; goniometry; and manual muscle testing.
    • Satisfactory physical strength to transport, move or lift patient requiring all levels of assistance and to perform prolonged periods of standing, walking, sitting, bending, crawling, reaching, pushing, and pulling.
    • Satisfactory intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal skills to ensure patient safety; exercise independent judgment and discretion in the performance of assigned responsibilities, and interact with patients, families, and other health care workers.

    10. How many applicants are admitted to the program each year?

        25-30 applicants are admitted each year. More information can be found in the PTA program packet

     

    11. What is the total cost of the program?

       The program consists of 71 credit hours spread over five semesters. Current rates can be found on TCC's tuition webpage.

    12. What are the career opportunities for a PTA?

    PTA's are employed in many types of clinics including:

     

      • hospitals,
      • rehabilitation centers,
      • nursing homes,
      • home health,
      • outpatient clinics,
      • sports medicine clinics,
      • private industry, and
      • schools.

      Find PTA jobs.