Things We Wish We Knew Before PTA School
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
As we finish up the last few weeks of our core curriculum in the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois, we look back at all the challenges and accomplishments that we have faced over the past 2 years.
And while these past 2 years have flown by, we reflect on things that we learned and things that we wish we would have known before starting physical therapy assistant school.
Try to visit a clinic or two before your program starts.
Spending time in a rehab setting before starting your program helps with some understanding of terminology, the work pace, and, most importantly, the profession. If you can get a head start try to shadow, intern, and visit various clinics and settings.
Studying is different in PTA school.
Studying will become a priority for you. You'll likely have to adjust and shift your studying style for class material and teaching style. Talk to your professors to get their insight on study methods and styles. Form a study group with your classmates, remembering that you're in this together. And know that you may have to take time to review material over school breaks, so it stays fresh in your mind.
Time management is key, but so is your quality of life.
In order to stay on top of all the courses and clinical rotations, being able to have adequate time-management skills helps to assist with staying on track and keeping up with the curriculum. We encourage you to take much needed breaks and make time for friends and family, as they will help you recharge and get through what feels like a marathon.
No matter what your age or previous level of education, don't give up, you will find a way to make it through.
Physical therapy school is hard, stressful, and time-consuming; you're learning a lot of information in 2 years. We encourage you not to get discouraged. You'll have moments when you'll question if you belong in this field and profession, and we're here to tell you that you do and you have a large group of professionals behind you for support when you need it. Lean on and reach out to your classmates, professors, PTAs, and PTs. We're all in this together. And remember, when you think you know nothing, you know a lot, so don't get disheartened.
You'll build your own "toolbox" of knowledge through learning the basic foundations of physical therapy.
This includes, but not limited to, simple terms of movement patterns to more complex clinical skills of goniometer measurements, learning about special tests, manual muscle testing, and joint mobilizations. Not only have we progressed in the orthopedic realm, but we also have progressed in professional ethical skills and standards, patient communication skills, and collaborations with other health care professionals.
To new students or those considering a PTA degree program, any of these terms that sound unfamiliar to you, don't worry. You will get there eventually just like we did. Lastly, don't forget to have fun and enjoy it while you can. It will go by fast!
Angie Gonzalez, SPTA; Megan Gibbs, SPTA; Lexi Kramer, SPTA are PTA students at Oakton Community College.