What is the difference between a PT and a PTA?

If you’ve spent time in a physical therapy office, you have probably heard the abbreviations PT and PTA used.

PT = physical therapist and PTA = physical therapist assistant.

You may have been treated by both in an outpatient clinic before, and wondered, “what is the difference?”

The biggest difference between PTs and PTAs in the outpatient setting is that a PTA cannot do the initial evaluation or the set up the plan of care. But, once the PT has their first appointment with the patient and decides upon a plan of care, PTAs can work with the patient at the same level as the PT. This includes manual therapy, (stretching, mobilizing joints) instructing and progressing their exercises in the gym, and assigning an HEP, or home exercise plan. As a patient, you may not even notice a difference between being treated by a PT or a PTA.

As a PTA at Hulst Jepsen, I treat alongside the physical therapist in our clinic. I am another set of ears, eyes and hands working with patients to decrease pain, improve motion, strength and function and their overall quality of life. It is awesome to see patients who come to us initially not being able to walk, or with their arm in a sling and go out on their last day walking normal or being able to use their arm for reaching, lifting, and carrying without pain.

For me, it is fun to connect with our patients on personal level. I really enjoy hearing about their families, how they met their spouse, their kids, grandkids, where they grew up, how they ended up in Michigan and what they do and have done for work. Over the years I have been introduced to new foods, recipe ideas and restaurants. I have heard about awesome vacation destinations and campground recommendations, and even donut shop recommendations! We discuss if the Lions will win a Super Bowl in my life time or when the Tigers will win another World Series to the highs and lows of our Fantasy football season. During hunting season, it is fun to see patients light up as they talk about the huge deer that was just out of range and all the other wildlife they saw that day.

These are just some of the things that bring me joy in doing my work and I hope through these conversations and encouragement we are able to ease some of fearfulness and discomfort that goes along with recovering from an injury.

Regardless of who you are treated by, we hope you experience the friendly, individualized care at HJPT. Meet our team here!

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Kent Huyser