PT and PTA Student Collaboration: Working Toward Understanding


The purpose of this platform is to introduce a unique collaborative learning experience between PT and PTA students. Patient/client care is optimized when PT’s and PTA’s work with mutual respect and cooperation. This experience allows students to work in a clinical setting under the supervision of faculty.


Faculty A- full time faculty in PTA Program, part time in DPT program.
Faculty B- full time faculty in DPT Program, part time in PTA Program.
In the fifth year of the DPT program, faculty A presents information about the history and educational preparation of the PTA, delegation and supervision requirements, and the preferred PT/PTA relationship.
In the second year, PTA students complete a series of 4 lab sessions in a Clinical Neurology course in which they work in small groups with patients with neurological conditions from an on-campus long term care center. PTA students, under the supervision and guidance of a PT faculty member complete data collection, and identify impairments and functional limitations. The students work with the PT to determine an intervention plan.
For the past 3 years student volunteers in the fifth year of the PT Program have been recruited to work with the PTA students in the neurology lab. Since the start of this project, the number of PT student volunteers has grown, from 2 to 12 this year. The PT and PTA students work together to complete data collection, analyze the findings, and problem solve to determine appropriate interventions. They discuss what components of the treatment are appropriate for the PTA to complete, then collaborate to implement chosen interventions. After each lab, students discuss the results of the intervention, and plan for the next treatment session.


Student feedback about this experience has been overwhelmingly positive. One hundred percent of PTA students found the experience useful, and recommend continuing this initiative. PTA students comment on the benefits of teaching and learning from the DPT students, the opportunity to practice professional communication and collaboration, and the confidence they gain in using clinical skills. The DPT students feel that the lecture component of the collaboration gives them a better understanding of the preferred PT/PTA relationship, and the clinical component better prepares them to work with PTA’s in a clinical setting. All DPT participants feel it was a positive addition to their coursework.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Shaping the Future of Physical Therapy Education

This series of learning experiences provides PT students information about, and gives them supervised experience in working with PTA students in an atmosphere of partnership and mutual respect. PTA students gain experience in collaborating with PT students to perform data collection and provide appropriate interventions. In working together in a simulated clinical setting, PT and PTA students engage in professional behaviors outlined in the Values-Based Behaviors for the Physical Therapist Assistant and Professionalism in Physical Therapy: Core Values.


Values-Based Behaviors for the Physical Therapist Assistant. American Physical Therapy Association; 2011

Professionalism: Physical Therapy Core Values. American Physical Therapy Association; 2012

Plack MM, Williams S, Miller D, et al. Collaboration Between Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants: Fostering the Development of the Preferred Relationship Within a Classroom Setting. J of Physical Therapy Education 2006; 20(1) 3-13.

Robinson AJ, McCall M, DePalma MT, et at. Physical Therapists’ Perceptions of the Roles of the Physical Therapist Assistant. Phys Ther 1994; 74(6) 60-71

Cavallo CL, Richter RR. Attitudes of Physical Therapist Students Toward Physical Therapist Assistants Before and After Full-time Clinical Internships. J Allied Health 2004; 33(1) 10-16

Robinson AJ, DePalma MT, McCall M. Physical Therapist Assistants’ Perceptions of the Documented Roles of the Physical Therapist Assistant. Phys Ther 1995; 75(12) 22-32

BACK to Abstract Results

  • Control #: 2267194
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2015
  • Authors: Dr. Kim Kotz, Jessica Wiatrowski
  • Keywords:

BACK to Abstract Results