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Physical Therapist Assistant - Program Goals & Learning Outcomes

Program Goals

Upon completion of the program, the student will:

  1. master entry-level Physical Therapist Assistant competencies in the basic and applied skills and knowledge as designated by the APTA and described in the educational outcomes for the program.
  2. demonstrate professionalism in all behaviors carried out in their role as a PTA
  3. be prepared for ethical, legal, and safe practice within a variety of settings in the field of physical therapy
  4. demonstrate effective written, oral, and non-verbal communication skills needed to interact with patients, families, care givers and other members of the health care team
  5. educate patients, families, care givers, and other members of the health care team in order to optimize the patient's overall outcome, including areas of current health promotion, maintenance, wellness, and prevention.
  6. obtain gainful employment in order to meet personal goals and improve the health care delivery system in the local and surrounding areas.


Program Level Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Phase I - General Education Component
    Upon completion of the Phase I (general education) portion of the program, students will have acquired necessary biological, physical, physiological, and anatomical principles. Other principles acquired during this phase are related to social and behavioral sciences, health and wellness, English, the humanities, and math.
  3. Phase II - Technical/Clinical Education Component
    After acceptance into and completion of the Phase II of the program, students will have successfully demonstrated entry-level competency verbally, in writing, or by practical application, the ability to work under the direction and supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Specific skills to be acquired during Phase II include:
    • Ethics, Values, & Responsibilities
      • Adhering to legal practice standards, including all federal, state, and institutional regulations related to patient/client care and fiscal management. (7D1)
      • Reporting to appropriate authorities suspected cases of abuse of vulnerable populations. (7D2)
      • Reporting to appropriate authorities suspected cases of fraud and abuse related to the utilization of and payment for physical therapy and other health care services. (7D3)
      • Performing duties in a manner consistent with the Guide for Conduct of the Physical Therapist Assistant (APTA) and Standards or Ethical Conduct (APTA) to meet the expectations of patients, members of the physical therapy profession, and other providers as necessary. (7D4)
      • Performing duties in a manner consistent with APTA's Values Based Behaviors for the PTA. (7D5)
      • Implementing, in response to an ethical situation, a plan of action that demonstrates sound moral reasoning congruent with core professional ethics and values. (7D6)
      • Communicating effectively with all stakeholders, including patients/clients, family members, caregivers, practitioners, interprofessional team members, consumers, payers, and policymakers. (7D7)
      • Identifying, respecting, and acting with consideration for patients'/clients' differences, values, preferences, and expressed needs in all work-related activities. (7D8)
      • Applying current knowledge, theory, and clinical judgment while considering the patient/client perspective and the environment, based on the plan of care established by the physical therapist. (7D9)
      • Identifying basic concepts in professional literature including, but not limited to, validity, reliability and level of statistical significance. (7D10)
      • Identifying and integrating appropriate evidence based resources to support clinical decision-making form progression of the patient within the plan of care established by the physical therapist. (7D11)
      • Effectively educating others by using teaching methods that are commensurate with the needs of the patient, caregiver or healthcare personnel. (7D12)
      • Participating in professional and community organization that provides opportunities for volunteerism, advocacy and leadership. (7D13)
      • Identifying career development and lifelong learning opportunities, including the role of the PTA in the clinical education of PTA students. (7D14)
    • Patient/Client Management
      • Interviewing patients/clients, caregivers, and family to obtain current information related to prior and current level of function and general health status (e.g., fatigue, fever, malaise, unexpected weight change.) (7D15)
      • Using the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) to describe a patient's/client's impairments, activity and participation limitations. (7D16)
    • Plan of Care
      • Communicating and understanding of the plan of care developed by the physical therapist to achieve short and long term goals and intended outcomes. (7D17)
      • Reviewing health records (e.g., lab values, diagnostic tests, specialty reports, narrative, consults, and physical therapy documentation) prior to carrying out the PT plan of care. (7D18)
      • Monitoring and adjusting interventions in the plan of care in response to patient/client status and clinical indications. (7D19)
      • Reporting any changes in patient/client status or progress to the supervision physical therapist. (7D20)
      • Determining when an intervention should not be performed due to clinical indications or when the direction to perform the intervention is beyond that which is appropriate for the PTA. (7D21)
      • Contributing to the discontinuation of episode of care planning and follow-up processes as directed by the supervision physical therapist. (7D22)
    • Intervention
      • Demonstrating competence in implementing selected components of interventions identified in the plan of care established by the physical therapist.  Interventions include: (7D23)
        1. Airway Clearance Techniques: breathing exercises, coughing techniques and secretion mobilizations. (7D23a)
        2. Application of Devices and Equipment: assistive/adaptive devices and prosthetic and orthotic devices. (7D23b)
        3. Biophysical Agents: biofeedback, electrotherapeutic agents, compression therapies, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, superficial and deep thermal agents, traction and light therapies. (7D23c)
        4. Functional Training in Self-Care and in Domestic, Education, Work, Community, Social, and Civic Life. (7D23d)
        5. Manual Therapy Techniques: passive range of motion and therapeutic massage. (7D23e)
        6. Motor Function Training (balance, gait, etc). (7D23f)
        7. Patient/Client Education. (7D23g)
        8. Therapeutic Exercise. (7D23h)
        9. Wound Management: isolation techniques, sterile technique, application and removal of dressing or agents, and identification of precautions for dressing removal. (7D23i)
    • Test and Measures
      • Demonstrating competence in performing components of data collection skills essential for carrying out the plan of care by administering appropriate tests and measures (before, during, and after interventions) for the following areas: (7D24)
        1. Aerobic Capacity and Endurance: measurement of standard vital signs; recognize and monitor responses to positional changes and activities (e.g., orthostatic hypotension, response to exercise). (7D24a)
        2. Anthropometrical Characteristics: measurements of height, weight, length, and girth. (7D24b)
        3. Mental Functions: detect changes in a patient's state of arousal, mentation, and cognition. (7D24c)
        4. Assistive Technology:  identify the individual's and caregiver's ability to care for the device; recognize changes in skin condition and safety factors while using devices and equipment. (7D24d)
        5. Gait, Locomotion, and Balance: deterring the safety, status, and progression of patient while engaged in gait, locomotion, balance, wheelchair management and mobility. (7D24e)
        6. Integumentary Integrity: detect absent or altered sensation; normal and abnormal integumentary changes; activities, positioning, and postures that aggravate or relieve pain or altered sensations, or that can produce associated skin trauma; and recognize viable versus nonviable tissue. (7D24f)
        7. Joint integrity and Mobility: detect normal and abnormal joint movement. (7D24g)
        8. Muscle Performance: measure muscle strength by manual muscle testing; observe the presence or absence of muscle mass; recognize normal and abnormal muscle length, and changes in muscle tone. (7D24h)
        9. Neuromotor Development: detect gross motor milestones, fine motor milestones, and righting and equilibrium reactions. (7D24i)
        10. Pain: administer standardized questionnaires, graphs, behavioral scales, or visual analog scales for pain; recognize activities, positioning, and postures that aggravate or relieve pain or altered sensations. (7D24j)
        11. Posture: determine normal and abnormal alignment of trunk and extremities at rest and during activities. (7D24k)
        12. Range of Motion: measure functional range of motion and measure range of motion using an appropriate measurement device. (7D24l)
        13. Self-care and Civic, Community, Domestic, Education, Social and Work Life:  inspect the physical environment and measure physical spaces; recognize safety and barriers in the home, community, and work environments; recognize level of functional status; administer standardized questionnaires to patients and others. (7D24m)
        14. Ventilation, Respiration, and Circulation: detect signs and symptoms of respiratory distress, and activities that aggravate or relieve edema, pain, dyspnea, or other symptoms; describe thoracoabdominal movements and breathing patterns with activity, and cough and sputum characteristics. (7D24n)
      • Completing accurate documentation that follows guidelines and specific documentation formats required by state practice acts, the practice setting, and other regulatory agencies. (7D25)
      • Responding effectively to patient/client and environmental emergencies that commonly occur in the clinical setting. (7D26)
    • Participation in Health Care Environment
      • Contributing to the efforts to increase patient and healthcare provider safety. (7D27)
      • Participating in the provision of patient-centered interprofessional collaborative care. (7D28)
      • Participating in performance improvement activities (quality assurance). (7D29)
    • Practice Management
      • Describing aspects of organizational planning and operation of the physical therapy service. (7D30)
      • Describing accurate and timely information for billing and payment purposes. (7D31)