What is the Difference Between PTs, PTAs, and PT Techs

What is the Difference Between PTs, PTAs, and PT Techs

In an outpatient setting like Chesapeake Bay Aquatic & Physical Therapy, there are two primary types of clinical staff: PTs, PTAs, as well as PT Techs. There is also a whole team of Front Desk staff who work a very different type of magic than what I, a clinical staff member, can do. The Front Desk staff are usually the people you talk to first.

The clinical staff consists of Physical Therapists (PTs) and Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs), who treat patients. Physical Therapist Technicians (“Techs” or “Aides”) assist both the PTs and PTAs to help a clinic run smoothly and help patients with exercises with which they are already familiar. PTs and PTAs are both licensed healthcare providers. This means they are required to attend and graduate from specific educational programs, and to pass a national and state Board of Physical Therapy Exam at the conclusion of this education. PT Techs often have experience in related fields, or are students preparing to become PTs or PTAs.

While both PTs and PTAs are Board-certified clinicians, the education programs for these two professions are different. PT educational programs emphasize learning how to diagnose physical problems so that they can create an appropriate Plan of Care to help solve these problems. This means PTs are also able to evaluate how well the Plan of Care is working. This is why you generally have the same clinician for your Evaluations and your Re-Evaluations (“Evals” and Re-Evals”).

PTA programs emphasize learning various treatment options for solving the problems and attaining the goals outlined in PT’s Plan of Care, but do not teach students to diagnose physical problems or assess how much progress a patient has made. PTAs can perform many of the same treatments as PTs, but do not diagnose problems or add treatment options not already included in the PT’s Plan of Care.

Hopefully you enjoy the time you spend with everyone you work with, but these important distinctions can help you direct your questions (and you should have questions!) to the appropriate staff member throughout your sessions.

Sonya PTA