When you come to Campbell Clinic
for physical therapy, you are likely to interact with one of our amazing physical
therapy assistants (PTAs). It is hard to imagine our clinic without these
diligent workers, but a little more than 50 years ago, the occupation didn’t even
While the idea for physical therapy
assistants sparked in the 1940s after World War I and during a polio outbreak,
it wasn’t until 1967 that Congress adopted a policy to establish educational
standards, scope of practice and licensure for physical therapy aides and assistants.
That same year, the first programs for PTAs were established in Florida and
Minnesota. By 1971, there were 10 approved PTA educational programs, and that
number continued to grow throughout the following decades. As of today, there
are more than 350 accredited PTA programs in the U.S.
What Is a Physical Therapy Assistant?
While you may work with them
during your appointments, you may not fully understand what a PTA is and does. The
job description is in the name itself. PTAs help patients under the supervision
of a physical therapist to recover
from injuries and illness. They assist patients through exercises, stretching
and other conditioning, to manage pain and to regain function and mobility. They
also track patient progress and counsel them on day-to-day issues.
While there are hundreds of
accredited programs to become a physical therapy assistant, gaining licensure
is no easy feat. Once accepted into a program, students must complete two years
of training – usually five semesters – and take part in externships at
facilities such as Campbell Clinic. Once their educational training is complete,
graduates must pass a national examination.
of Labor Statistics estimated a 30 percent growth in PTA jobs between 2016
and 2026. Students are enthused by this growth in the industry as well.
Cameron Kawell, a PTA student at
South College says, “I am excited to join the PTA field because it gives me the
opportunity to help people return to or maintain the level of function in their
lives. That looks like anything from returning to their marathon training
program to kids gaining the strength to walk for the first time to an older
person regaining the strength to go up the three steps in into their home,
allowing them to keep their autonomy. I am honestly excited about being with
patients and allowing them to heal so that they can reach their true potential.”
Learn more about the PTA
profession from the American
Physical Therapy Association.