The purpose of the Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) Program is to produce graduates with the information and skills, clinical competencies, and integrity to positively impact patients and the profession. With an integrated two-year curriculum, the program offers an opportunity to earn an Associate in Science in Physical Therapist Assistant degree with immediate entry into a rewarding career upon successful completion of the licensure exam.
The PTA Program prepares the student for a career serving as a member of the healthcare team who provides direct patient care under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. The PTA provides treatment to patients with various diagnoses to relieve pain and/or improve function via the application of heat and cold therapies, light therapy, water activities, electrical stimulation, sound therapy, therapeutic massage, body exercises, gait exercises, and functional activities in the patient's therapeutic regimen.
A PTA is a licensed professional who works in settings where physical therapists are employed including hospitals, private practices, rehabilitation centers, school systems, sports teams, home health agencies, and other qualified facilities.
The PTA Program is a 74-credit AS degree program that trains and qualifies the graduate to work in the physical therapy field. A student seeking admission must first be admitted to the College and complete the prerequisite courses. Certain courses in this program require placement at the college level or satisfaction of Developmental Education requirements in reading, writing, and mathematics.
The PTA Program is offered on the Winter Haven Campus. Classes are scheduled Monday through Thursday, and the program includes day and occasional evening hours. Program requirements are rigorous. The student must commit to making the program his or her first priority to ensure success.
Polk State College has achieved accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education of the American Physical Therapy Association. A graduate of the PTA Program is eligible to take the National Physical Therapist Assistant Examination for licensure as a physical therapist assistant (PTA).
The admission period is February 15 through March 15 of each year. An online application is available on the PTA Program's website during this period.
The following items are the minimum requirements for consideration for admission into the Physical Therapist Assistant Program:
- The prospective student must gain acceptance to Polk State College as a credit-seeking student with all required admission documents received by the Registrar's Office.
- The student must complete any required Developmental Education courses.
- The student must have a GPA of 2.5 or higher and a grade of C or better in all prerequisite and required courses.
- Admission to the Physical Therapist Assistant Program is provided using a first-come, first-qualified procedure that is based on seat availability. To be considered for admission, an applicant must satisfy necessary Developmental Education requirements, complete 50 volunteer/observation hours, and complete the following courses with a C or better by the time of application during the year of intended entry into the program:
Note: Prerequisites to a program can change; a student who has not yet been admitted may be required to take additional or alternate prerequisites prior to admission to the program.
- The prospective student must have verification of at least 50 volunteer, observation, or employment hours in at least three different physical therapy locations. These hours should include at least one inpatient setting (e.g., hospital, rehabilitation hospital, skilled nursing clinic, or nursing home) and at least one outpatient setting (e.g., sports medicine clinic, outpatient orthopedic clinic, outpatient pediatrics clinic, school system, or home health care). The student should complete a minimum of eight hours in each physical therapy location. Any student who completes observation hours in less than three physical therapy locations is disqualified from program enrollment.
Examples of scenarios that disqualify the applicant from admission include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The student completes 50 hours in an outpatient clinic (i.e., all hours are completed in only one setting and one location).
- The student completes 25 hours in a skilled nursing facility and 25 hours in a hospital setting (i.e., all hours are divided between only two types of physical therapy locations).
- The student completes 25 hours in an outpatient clinic, 10 hours in another outpatient clinic, and 15 hours in another outpatient clinic (i.e. hours accrued are distributed between three different locations but have been completed in the same setting type).
An example of a scenario that fulfills the observation/volunteer hour requirements:
- The student completes 20 hours in a skilled nursing facility, 20 hours in another skilled nursing facility, and 10 hours in an outpatient clinic (i.e., hours accrued are distributed in three different locations, with two of the settings of the same type).
Additional Program Requirements
The following requirements are to be completed prior to the first summer clinical internship. The PTA Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education provides an orientation regarding how to comply with these requirements:
- Submission of a physical examination and essential functions examination.
- Completion of immunizations and communicable disease screenings. This may require blood tests for titers or immunizations.
- Certification in CPR (current).
- Certification in AIDS Training for Healthcare Professionals.
- Completion of required Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) fingerprinting and background checks.
- Completion of a drug screening.
The approximate cost of the program is $12,042.78. This cost estimate includes course fees, books, and uniforms; however, it does not include any Developmental Education courses that a student may need to take. With the Developmental Education courses, the approximate cost for the program is $13,923.
Salary for program graduates is dependent on demand for physical therapist assistants. Salary potential and growth projection for physical therapist assistants can be found through the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics at: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes312021.htm. Salaries vary depending on geographic location, type of facility, and years of experience.
Following completion of academic and clinical work, a graduate of the program is able to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination for the Physical Therapist Assistant to establish eligibility for licensure. The exam is administered by the Professional Examination Service, Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (PES/FSBPT), 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115; telephone: 212.367.4200.
Most states require licensure in order to practice. Therefore, each graduate must apply for Florida licensure upon successful completion of the PTA Program graduation requirements. The student is responsible for requesting information from the state licensing agency and completing the requirements for licensure.
Florida regulations provide that the denial of a license or certificate may occur if an individual is habitually intemperate; is addicted to, found to be in illegal possession of, or involved in the sale or distribution of habit-forming drugs; and/or is unfit or incompetent by reason of gross negligence, a physical or mental condition, or any other similar cause that could result in behavior that interferes in his or her practice as a health professional. In addition, a felony conviction may prevent an individual from earning licensure to practice as a physical therapist assistant.
The prospective student should be aware that a Social Security Number (SSN) is required to be issued a certificate or license by the Florida Department of Health, which is the licensing authority for healthcare licenses in Florida.
To obtain further information regarding the Florida Board of Physical Therapy Practice, a student may write or call the Board office, or visit the Internet website:
Department of Health
Board of Physical Therapy Practice
4052 Bald Cypress Way, Bin #C05
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-3255
Program Learning Outcomes
The Physical Therapist Assistant Program outcomes have been developed using the Normative Model for Physical Therapist Assistant Education (2006) as a reference. The program outcomes outline the terminal behaviors expected from each student when completing the program sequence. The following program outcomes support the PTA Program's mission, as well as the mission of Polk State College, and meet the educational standards set by the American Physical Therapy Association and the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
Upon completion of the PTA Program sequence, the student is expected to be able to demonstrate the following key competencies:
- Communication: Communicates verbally and nonverbally with the patient, the PT, health care delivery personnel, and others in an effective, appropriate, and capable manner.
- Individual and cultural differences: The student demonstrates an understanding of the major differences between individuals and cultures with sensitivity.
- Behavior and Conduct: Exhibits conduct that reflects a commitment to meet or exceed the expectations of members of society and the profession.
- Clinical Problem Solving and Judgments: Demonstrates clinical problem-solving skills and professional judgment.
- Education: Instructs aides, volunteers, peers, and coworkers using established techniques, programs, and instructional materials commensurate with the learning characteristics of the audience.
- Data Collection: Demonstrates competence in performing specific data-collection techniques as delegated by the supervising PT.
- Plan of Care: Understands the plan of care written for the individual patient and implements delegated interventions to achieve the short- and long-term goals and outcomes identified in the plan of care.
- Intervention: Implements the delegated interventions within the plan of care established by the PT, monitor the patient's response, and responds accordingly.
- Outcomes Measurements and Evaluation: Uses data collection and communication to participate in determining a patient's progress toward specific outcomes as established in the plan of care by the PT.
- Health Care Delivery Systems: Provides services under the direction of the PT in primary, secondary, and tertiary settings.
- Administration: Supervises the physical therapy aide in patient-related activities as delegated to the aide by the PT and in non-patient care activities, as defined by the policies and procedures of the practice setting.
- Social Responsibility: Demonstrates social responsibility, citizenship, and advocacy, including participation in community and service organizations and activities.
- Career Development: Participates in career development based on self-assessment, performance appraisals, work setting, and special interest.