Physical Therapy Assistant Says ‘Every Patient and Every Day is Different’

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Physical therapy assistants like Brandon Shreve help people who are recovering from injuries and illnesses to regain movement.
Physical therapy assistants like Brandon Shreve help people who are recovering from injuries and illnesses to regain movement. (Credit: Courtesy Brandon Shreve)

Brandon Shreve is a physical therapy assistant, also known as a PTA, at Mountain State Physical Therapy in Morgantown, West Virginia. The 36-year-old West Virginia native has been working there since 2012. "Being a PTA is a job where you really get to see the difference you are making in someone’s life," he said.

Why did you decide to get into physical therapy?

I always wanted to work in a helping profession. I used to work in human services as a case manager, and had clients who went to physical therapy and occupational therapy. After seeing what they were doing, I decided I wanted to work in physical rehab.

(Physical therapy and occupational therapy assistants are among the fastest-growing jobs in the nation.)

What does a typical day as a PTA look like?

When I arrive at the clinic, I review all the cases on my schedule and talk to the supervising therapists about what direction the treatments will take for the day. Depending on the day, I see eight to 10 people for approximately 60-minute sessions.

What do you like most about your job?

I like the variety of conditions I get to treat at my job, and I enjoy getting to help people reach their functional goals.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

That physical therapy assistants just follow instructions. Every patient and every day is different. You have to be able to improvise and adapt.

What do you wish you knew about the job before you got into it?

How physically demanding it can really get. You can have days with a lot of lifting and transferring of patients.

How did you train to become a PTA?

The PTA program is a two-year associate degree. In addition to standard classroom instruction, I had to complete a number of clinical rotations treating actual patients.

What personality traits or qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?

Good communication skills are a must. You also need to be very observant and able to multi-task.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

If I weren't in healthcare, I'd probably have a job in the tech industry.

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