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Physical Therapists, Physical Therapy Assistants, Physical Therapy Aides – Looking at the Core Clinical Workforce of a Practice

Looking at the make-up of a clinical workforce in a private practice physical therapy practice

There are variety of different types of clinic personnel that serve in physical therapy practices across the country. Together, the clinic staff forms a team to deliver care and service to patients from end to end.

Physical Therapist (PT, DPT)

Having a PT on staff is requisite for any private practice. In today’s world, the minimum level of education to practice as a physical therapist is a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Highly trained PTs deliver care and are responsible for evaluating patients, developing treatment plans, and delivering care while also supervising other clinical staff in the practice. PTs can work individually or in teams depending on the need.
 
PTs have many responsibilities including diagnosing, evaluating, treating and communicating with patients. Many PTs are also owners of private practices which adds on the role of everything from CEO to janitor.
 
What does it take to be a PT?
  • Doctorate in physical therapy
  • Passage of a national exam
  • Licensure by state

Physical Therapy Assistants (PTA)

PTAs play an important role in many practices and have done so for decades. In fact, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the first physical therapy assistant graduating class in 2019. As the APTA explains, the concept of a PTA grew out of a need to serve patients following two world wars and several polio outbreaks.
 
PTAs work under the supervision of a physical therapist. Once the PT has completed diagnosis and evaluation, PTAs are often called upon to provide some of the interventions. Interventions can include things like therapeutic exercise ultrasound, and more.
 
What does it take to be a PTA?
  • Associate degree
  • Passage of a national exam
  • Licensure by state

Physical Therapy Tech/Aide

Aides are also an important part of many practices and perform many tasks that keep PT practice’s and their patients moving forward. Tasks can include cleaning equipment, setting up things/breaking them down, help with patient check-ins, scheduling, etc. Aides also assist patients in moving to and from equipment areas. Aides work with a PTs and PTAs but do not render direct patient care.
 
What does it take to be a PT Tech/Aide?
  • High School Diploma
  • On the job training

Student of Physical Therapy (SPT)

SPT’s are individuals who are the midst of pursuing education within the field. Students often work in practices as interns or in a support staff role working directly with PTs who are delivering care. This is an important educational opportunity for students and can provide a set of important hands for practices. Students may also find these positions to be a path to a job offer following graduation.

The bottom line

Every practice has to find the right formula for success, which is a combination of patient outcomes, service, finance/budgets, operational effectiveness and a multitude of other factors. Having a solid clinical team is a huge part of that formula.

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