APTA Responds to Biodexcellence Newsletter on the Role of the PT and PTA

June 20, 2011

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the article titled, "Focus on Ultimate Rehab, Ridgewood, NJ" by Tom Schlichter that appeared in the Winter 2011, issue of the "Biodexcellence—Strategies for Success" newsletter.

The article featured drummer Lenny White who was treated for a shoulder condition by physical therapist (PT), Toni LaBarbiera, PT, and physical therapist assistant (PTA) Rick Lemus, LPTA, using the Biodex Multi-Joint System.

While we certainly appreciate the support that Biodex has given APTA over the years as an advertiser and exhibitor, we would like to offer some thoughts on the article for your consideration.

First, it was gratifying that Mr. White was successful in his rehabilitation; however, the article made it appear that Mr. Lemus' role was to evaluate Mr. White and design a plan of care - tasks that are not within the legal scope of work of a PTA.

In reality, the physical therapist (PT) is responsible for all components of evaluation and for designing a treatment plan for each patient. The PT maintains responsibility for all services provided to the patient, including those completed by the PTA. Physical therapists are health care professionals who have the most specialized education to help people restore and improve motion. PTs complete a graduate degree — either a masters or clinical doctorate — from an accredited education program and then must pass a state-administered national exam before they can practice.

PTAs provide physical therapy services only under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist. PTAs implement some elements of treatment, obtain data related to treatment, and make treatment modifications. They may also assist in instructing patients in exercises and activities of daily living and use special equipment (including physical modalities). PTAs graduate with a two-year associate degree from an accredited PTA program at a technical or community college, college, or university. Graduates must pass the national examination for licensing/certification in all states except Hawaii to be eligible to work.

In almost every state one may visit a physical therapist directly, without the referral of a physician. To learn more about the physical therapy profession, please visit www.moveforwardpt.com.


Janet Crosier, PT, DPT, MEd
Director, Physical Therapist Assistant Services
American Physical Therapy Association