TITLE: Threading educational partnerships throughout the curriculum to improve physical therapy PT/PTA team effectiveness.


Educational programs should develop curricula with guided learning experiences to meet professional expectations for entry-level practice at both the physical therapist (PT) and physical therapist assistant (PTA) levels. Programs introduce didactic content aimed at understanding the role each plays in the PT-PTA intra-professional team. The new CAPTE standards raise the expectations for physical therapy educational programs to incorporate meaningful learning experiences to ensure graduates can effectively function in the PT/PTA team. However, little is written about strategies to maximize effective delegation and supervision within the team. Important to the PT/PTA team is the need for reciprocal communication regarding critical thinking when making patient care decisions. Decision making incorporates clinical reasoning, a set of skills present in the continuum of learning throughout the didactic and clinical educational process. This session will discuss how two New Jersey-based programs, one physical therapist and one physical therapist assistant, developed a unique partnership using a collaborative learning module for first year students designed to maximize one's ability to function in the PT/PTA team.

Methods and/or Description of Project

Using lecture, case studies, focused skills simulations with peer assessment, pre-post test and reflections, the presenters will report on their efforts to foster students’ clinical reasoning that drives the decision making process for appropriate examination, data collection and the utilization of the APTA PTA Directive Algorithm ,and the PTA Supervision Algorithm for delegation of treatment interventions.


Outcomes from three years of this educational partnership will be presented.
Faculty and student feedback support findings in the literature that early exposure to the intra-professional team enhances student knowledge and reduces barriers to working collaboratively. Bringing both PT and PTA students together for this interactive educational experience allowed them to develop effective communication strategies, build trust and respect for each team member, as well as practice basic clinical skills. Positive opinions encourage faculty to expand the intra-professional session through the use of case scenarios and collective practice

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education

The pursuit of excellence in physical therapy education includes preparing graduates for contemporary clinical practice. The educational process for the physical therapist education programs, both PT and PTA, need curricular content on the PT/PTA intra-professional team to begin early. Learning experiences should inform, foster, and sensitize students to the roles and contributions of each within the physical therapy profession, establish open communication, and enhance the ability to collaborate with each other.
The new standards established by the Commission for Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) raise expectations for educational programs to incorporate meaningful learning experiences to ensure graduates can effectively function within the PT/PTA team. Thus, PT and PTA curricula should include didactic content that occurs prior to clinical education experiences when actual teamwork opportunities occur during patient care.


1.American Physical Therapy Association (2004). Guide for conduct for the physical therapist assistant. Alexandria, VA.
2.American Physical Therapy Association, House of Delegates Standards, Policies, Positons, and guidelines (2012). Criteria for standards of practice of physical therapy BOD SO3-06016-38. Alexandria, VA.
3.Robinson, AJ, Mc Call, M, DePalma, MT, Clayton-Krasinski, D, Tingley, S, Simoncelli, S & Harnish, L (1994). Physical therapist’s perceptions of the role of the physical therapist assistant. Physical Therapy, 74, 571-582.
4. American Physical Therapy Association (2016). Evaluative criteria for accreditation of educational programs for the preparation of physical therapist. Alexandria, VA.
5.American Physical Therapy Association (2016). Evaluative criteria for accreditation of educational programs for the preparation of physical therapist assistant. Alexandria, VA.
6.Colgrove, YM, Walton, LM, VanHoose, LD (2015). The effects of intraprofessional collaborative case-based learning: A cohort study of student physical therapist and physical therapist assistant perceptions of the physical therapist assistant’s role. Journal of Research in Interprofessional Practice and Education,5.(1).
7.Jung B, Salvatori P, Martin A (2006). Intraprofessional fieldwork education: Occupational therapy and occupational therapist assistant students learning together. CJOT, 1(75), 42-50.
8.Jung, B, Sainsbury, S, Grum, R, Wilkins, S, & Tryssenaar, J (2002). Collaborative fieldwork education with student occupational therapists and student occupational therapist assistants. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69, 95-103.
9.Gardner, K (2011). APTA Curriculum Resources for Educators. American Physical Therapy Association, Alexandria. VA.
10.Graves, R. (2012). Clinical decision making for the physical therapist assistant across the continuum of care. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.
11.Skinner, S. B., & McVey, C. (2010). Clinical Decision Making for the Physical Therapist Assistant. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

1. Identify the literature that supports early learning experiences to enhance team functioning about the.

2. Incorporate clinical reasoning models to improve student knowledge and perceptions of the PT/PTA relationship to optimize patient care.

3. Implement case studies and skill performance tasks that facilitate group interaction and teamwork.

4. Design outcome instruments to collect student feedback to evaluate the PT/PTA team learning experience.

Instructional Methods

Teaching Method: Lecture
Assessment of Learning Evaluation Method: Pre and Post Test Participant Limitations

Tentative Outline/Schedule

Course/Session Format
Session Outline: 15 min: Introduction - Overview: The PT/ PTA intra-professional team 30 min: Structure and implementation of the collaborative learning module 30 min: Outcomes from three years of implementation 15 min: Building Educational Partnerships

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  • Control #: 2527718
  • Type: Educational Session
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Allison Kellish
  • Keywords:

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