PT Supervision of PTAs: How and Why We Are #BetterTogether
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes
In my last 2 years of undergrad, I supervised a group of student mentees and, admittedly, I made mistakes. I had more job responsibilities than the people I supervised did. I was trusted with more responsibilities than they were. So my opinion should always trump theirs, right?
Wrong. It was a disaster.
There were missed deadlines, arguments, and miscommunications that affected our job performances. My only saving grace was the guidance of a faculty member who changed my perspective on supervisory relationships. She helped me find ways to relate to the people working with me, and how important mutual respect is.
Fast forward to my first semester of physical therapy school in our professional issues class, we discussed the role a PTA plays in our practice as physical therapists, and their role in advocacy for the profession. In 2015, APTA's House of Delegates passed a motion granting chapters and sections the option to allow PTAs a full vote at the component (ie, chapter and section) level. To date, 38 state chapters and 9 specialty sections have changed their bylaws to give PTAs a full vote. However, our professor explained that in some states, PTAs still do not have a full vote. In my opinion PTs and PTAs treat the same patients; we are all affected by the same legislation relating to the physical therapy profession, and so our voices should be equal.
PTAs must practice under the supervision of a licensed PT, and the role they play in patient care is vitally important to successful outcomes. They are very involved in patient treatment and may pick up on things the PT might not, like learning personal revelations from the patient during treatment, to recognizing a nonmusculoskeleal problem that needs a referral. PTAs offer an informed professional opinion when deciding treatment progression that the PT may not have had otherwise.
In my first week of full-time clinical rotation in outpatient orthopedics, I worked with a PTA who has 20 years of experience, leads the majority of our aquatics physical therapy sessions, and is revered by clinicians and patients alike. Her work and opinions are highly respected, and the clinic clearly benefits from her knowledge.
If my experience has taught me anything, it's that in order to duplicate the positive, respectful dynamic I have experienced during my clinical rotation, PTs and PTAs should strive to have open communication, understand each other's roles, and demonstrate mutual respect for the breadth of each other's experiences and knowledge.
Looking toward the future of physical therapy, PTs and PTAs should continue to strive to improve their relationship and provide the best patient care possible, and just as importantly, to move the profession forward.
Having a solid base in our profession that includes PTs and PTAs makes us #BetterTogether. It allows us to more effectively achieve APTA's goal to improve the human experience.
For more information about the PT–PTA relationship and supervision, visit APTA Resources, Supervision Information, and Practice Setting Specific Information.
This is the first of a series of blogs exploring the PT–PTA relationship to couple the #StrongAtHome campaign being launched by the Student Assembly Interprofessional Collaboration Project Committee. Blogs in the future will address other components of the PT–PTA relationship and provide advice and tools to facilitate stronger relationships within your own clinic.
The #StrongAtHome campaign is an effort by SPTs and SPTAs to strengthen the relationship between both professions. Watch our video to learn more. Use the hashtag on Twitter and Facebook to be a part of the conversation!
Nick O'Hanlon, SPT, is a student at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. You can connect with him on Twitter at @NickOHanlonSPT.