The Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) is a program that imparts students with skills and knowledge to enable them to perform various operations in clinical situations. Most importantly, the PTA program provides students with the ability to perform various physical therapy treatments and functions in a competitive manner. Therefore, for students intending to pursue career in PTA, I would advise to prepare for a rigorous experience. This is because they will be required to develop motor, sensory, observational, communication, intellectual, behavioral, and conceptual skills.
Physical therapist assistants work in conjunction with other medical personnel to treat patients with conditions such as stroke, arthritis, cerebral palsy, amputations, and burns among others. Furthermore, physical therapists play a vital role in wellness and fitness programs in schools, fitness facilities, hospitals, and nursing homes. Therefore, my first advice to students yearning to pursue a career as PTA’s is to ensure that they get excellent grades in high school. For example, in most American universities, the minimum entry for a PTA program includes two units of science and mathematics including algebra and biology. A straight A student is also expected to have four secondary units of English, five units of arts, and one unit of foreign language.
Having worked at Pennsylvania State University as a physical therapist assistant, I have vital and critical advice which can be of paramount assistance for potential students. First, a student should be able to develop motor skills to ensure that they do not lose their patients out of negligence. This means that potential candidates should be able to move with adequate agility and speed to ensure patient safety. I would let students know that being a PTA is not an easy task. For example, at Pennsylvania State University, we teach students to prevent injury by giving manual resistance to the patient’s arm or leg during the therapy exercise. Besides, students must know well how to handle the electrical equipments to avoid injuries that may be inflicted on patients.
A potential candidate for the PTA program must develop effective sensory and observational skills. This means that the student can effectively use auditory, tactile and visual sense to observe the patient, collect all the relevant information, and interpret their medical data. Students must also be able to read and interpret patients’ charts, professional literature and other equipment dials. I remember one event when a student fell on the training ground and suffered a broken limb. The student also developed breathing problems and had to be resuscitated. Furthermore, he fractured his hand and was rushed to the dispensary where we administered first aid. The student was immediately placed on the electrical ultrasonic equipments, where the doctors took his pulse rate and gathered the other vital information. During this period I learned the essence of responding to warning sounds emitted from the machine and the right time to call for assistance.
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I would also advise potential candidates for the PTA program to develop positive behavioral and social attitude since they will be dealing with individuals of all ages, races, gender, and religious and economic backgrounds. The most important virtue of a PTA is to detect and respond appropriately to people from diverse backgrounds to ensure their safety. In this regard, students are encouraged to cope with the stress of managing demanding patients and confronting life-threatening situations. Similarly, students should be able to recognize and respond to potentially hazardous situations, such as broken limbs, fractured arms, dislocated necks or stressed veins.
The practice of physiotherapy involves regular exercise for limbs to develop easy coordination. In cases where patients are inclined to a wheelchair or crutches, a well-trained therapist should carefully move, carry or position patients in the right place to avoid further stress on the body. For example, patients with immature or broken limbs require constant practice and proper monitoring by the PTA to ensure they heal without further damaging their limbs.
I would also advise potential candidates who want to work in a clinical setting to develop good mental and physical strength. The students should openly display physical and emotional capacity to work on a 40-hour week while working on any clinical affiliation. The practice involves moving and positioning patients and equipment from one place to another. Furthermore, the work involves lifting equipments, carrying, pulling and lifting small weights as part of exercises for patients.
Finally, communication skills are exceptionally essential for students who want to become physical therapist assistants. Students should also communicate effectively in both verbal and written formats with patients, families and other professionals. Most importantly, physical therapists should record thoughts legibly in writing medical tests and assignments. Communication skills will help students to document patient care notes and interpret medical charts in a timely and consistent manner. Moreover, potential candidates should be able to develop a rapport with patients in order to diagnose their problems.
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In conclusion, I would advise many students to join the physical therapy assistant program since it is a fulfilling career. Based on my experience, I would encourage them to develop the fundamental skills of working in a clinical setting in order to save many lives. Most importantly, they should empathize with patients and be ready to offer any necessary treatment as required.