Physical therapist and physical therapist assistant students collaborate to prepare for clinical practice as team members.


To describe a student led, innovative teaching and learning method to prepare students for clinical practice as team members. For the past 10 years the Physical Therapy Program at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan and the Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Macomb Community College in Clinton Township, Michigan have collaborated to offer a unique and interactive learning experience. The purpose is to provide the students an opportunity to work and learn together about their education, roles, and responsibilities as team members.


The DPT and PTA students in their final, full academic semester are in the Professional Issues course for their respective programs. Each institution takes turns hosting the three hour class every other year. The overall learning objectives and methods have been developed jointly by the course instructors. Four physical therapist and four physical therapist assistant students work together as a team to create and lead the joint learning experience. The experience includes a needs assessment, ice breakers, learning activities, educational presentations and case studies. Needs assessments conducted by the students in the past have identified that only two-thirds of the DPT students have worked with PTAs while on their clinical experiences while all of the PTA students have worked with PTs. Students have identified concerns and questions as well as pros and cons about working with each other. Ice breakers are focused on getting to know each other, communication and working effectively as a team. Learning activities include PowerPoint presentations by the students on curriculum, direction and supervision, roles, responsibilities and legal and ethical issues. Case studies, related to direction, supervision and responsibilities, are on a variety of patient diagnoses and different clinical settings. Hot topic discussions have included joint mobilization, the possible move of PTA education to the baccalaureate degree, and roles and responsibilities with direct access.


Learning objectives have been measured and met with very positive results. Students enjoy the class, state they feel better prepared to interact with each other in the clinic and to provide quality patient care as part of a team. The student led learning approach facilitates creativity, ownership of the learning objectives and outcomes, and models effective collaboration between PTs and PTAs. Working together on this joint class each year has assisted the course instructors to stay up to date and to communicate on changes in PT and PTA education, reimbursement and practice issues.

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

This innovative learning experience evaluates student-readiness for direction, supervision and communication. The student leaders model teamwork and gain leadership experience while preparing future colleagues to collaborate and work together as physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in clinical practice.


1) American Physical Therapy Association. The Physical Therapist Physical Therapist Assistant Team Toolkit. 2) American Physical Therapy Association. Supervision and Teamwork.
3) American Physical Therapy Association. PT/PTA Teamwork: Models in Delivering Patient Care. 4) Pagliarulo, M. (2011). Introduction to physical therapy (4th ed.). St. Louis: Mosby.

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  • Control #: 2290334
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2015
  • Authors: Prof. Kris Thompson, Robert Mele
  • Keywords:

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