Physiotherapist Assistants (PTAs) in Canada work under the direction and supervision of a physiotherapist to provide care to clients of all ages and with a wide range of health conditions.
The Essential Competency Profile for Physiotherapist Assistants in Canada describes the knowledge, skills and attitudes required by physiotherapist assistants working under the supervision of a physiotherapist (PT).
Physiotherapists consider the education, training and competencies of PTAs, as well as the complexity of individual client needs and of the environment when assigning tasks. Physiotherapists must follow the standards of practice from their regulatory body for working with assistants. The accountability for care remains with the physiotherapist.
PTAs are not regulated by the physiotherapy provincial regulatory bodies. There is no certification process. There are several programs that offer education to become a physiotherapist assistant.
The Description of Physiotherapy in Canada outlines the definition of physiotherapy and identifies physiotherapy interventions, areas of practice, practice settings and education.
Where physiotherapist assistants work
PTAs can work in most settings where a physiotherapist provides services. This can include private clinics, community settings such as home care, hospitals and rehabilitation centres, retirement residences and long-term care facilities.
How physiotherapist assistants get involved
Depending on the setting, a PTA may or may not be involved in the care of a client. The physiotherapist will ask clients for permission to involve a PTA in the care. Parts of the treatment plan may be assigned to the PTA (e.g. supervision of exercises.) The PT and PTA work as a team; they communicate both formally (in the chart, during rounds) and informally (by speaking, log book.) They will share information in order to provide safe, effective care.
What can a physiotherapist assistant do?
A PTA may be assigned part of the treatment plan. This can include exercises, gait training, use of modalities (e.g. application of heat and ice packs). They will report changes in the client’s status and responses to treatments to the physiotherapist. The PTA may also participate in equipment management (purchase, evaluation, maintenance, inventory.)
What can a physiotherapist assistant not do?
“Physiotherapists maintain responsibility for client assessment, interpretation of findings, determination and initiation of interventions, progression of interventions, re-evaluation, and discharge planning.”2
PTAs may be assigned an evaluation tool to implement however; they will not interpret the results. They will not make decisions about changing the treatment plan. PTAs may communicate their opinions that clients are ready to progress to the PTs.