If you enjoy hands-on work that helps people with movement and quality of life, training to become a Physiotherapy Assistant – a PTA – and an Occupational Therapy Assistant – an OTA – may be perfect career options for you. Both positions help administer rehabilitative programs for patients with injury, illness, pain and varying degrees of disability.
The Physiotherapy/ Occupational Therapy Assistant program prepares students for both roles so they can pursue careers in either specialty. While both PTAs and OTAs empower people to gain mastery over movement, they offer different kinds of therapy, and work with different kinds of patients. It’s important to know the differences.
What is a Physiotherapy Assistant (PTA)?
A PTA works under the supervision of a licensed physiotherapist to help patients regain their ability to move after an illness or injury. PTAs clean and prepare equipment used in treatment, help patients stretch and do exercises and keep track of patient progress.
The aim of physiotherapy is to improve a patient’s range of motion, help them overcome pain, build and improve strength, flexibility, balance and coordination, and prevent further injury.
What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA)?
An OTA assists a licensed occupational therapist in helping patients with physical or developmental impairments perform the functions they need for everyday life. OTAs administer treatment plans and procedures, help patients adapt to assistive technology, and document patients’ progress.
The overall aim of occupational therapy is to help patients adapt over the long-term to their physical, mental, or developmental disabilities. Someone who has lost a limb, for instance, could undergo occupational therapy to learn to perform specific independent living tasks, such as taking a bath or driving, or how to use an assistive technology.
What are the main differences between PTAs and OTAs?
PTAs and OTAs help administer therapy with different objectives.
The goal of physiotherapy is to administer rehabilitative fitness and wellness programs designed to restore the desired activity and prevent further injury. The focus is on body mechanics. Patients have usually been affected by a single incident, injury or disease that affects their mobility.
Occupational therapy is a holistic practice that equips individuals for independent living with physical or developmental disabilities. Instead of focusing on a particular part of the body, OTAs help patients develop strategies for accomplishing daily tasks. These tasks are often self-care activities, such as eating, bathing and using the bathroom, and activities that help individuals live independently, such as driving, socializing, shopping, and maintaining their home.
As an example, a PTA might help a senior who has arthritis with exercises and massage to overcome pain and restore range of motion to joints in their arms and hands. An OTA might assist the same patient through self-care or cooking simulations, designed to help the patient regain the skills to live independently.
Why choose the Physiotherapy/Occupational Therapy Assistant Program?
PTAs and OTAs are both in high demand, so there are excellent prospects for both careers. Earning a diploma that covers two specialties qualifies you for jobs in both areas and demonstrates a broad therapeutic knowledge that helps you stand out to employers in either field.
The 74-week program includes a 15-week on-the-job practicum that covers both areas. In the classroom, you’ll learn from experienced instructors about the development and function of the human body and study physical dysfunction, disorders and treatment techniques. Before you begin your practicum, you’ll gain experience using therapeutic equipment in simulated rehabilitation rooms.