A Research Project to Complete Terminal Degree Requirements: Investigating the Effectiveness of the Physical Therapist Assistant in the Acute Rehabilitation Setting

Name of Award

Carol Easley Denny Award

Date Awarded



Physical Therapy, Doctor of Physical Therapy

Project Description

Dr. Jennifer Biggs Miller, Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy (DPT), was awarded $10,000 to investigate if the substitution of physical therapists (PTs) by physical therapist assistants (PTAs) for some physical therapy care affects patients’ outcomes. The roles of PTs and PTAs were designed to overlap in the care they provide to patients: PTs are responsible for setting the physical therapy plan of care, determining the patient prognosis, and implementing the interventions outlined in the plan of care; meanwhile, PTAs are educated to perform portions of the plan of care as determined by the PT.

While PTs continue to acquire more knowledge and skills with the increase in length of training, PTAs do not have this advantage. Because of this discrepancy, there are concerns regarding what the optimal utilization of the PTA may be. The benefits of maximizing the use of PTAs include costs saving and the abilities to reach more consumers who need and want physical therapy services.

Despite the benefits, there is very little published literature examining patient outcomes with greater use of the PTAs in patient care, although professional guidelines do exists to determine when responsibility should be delegated to the PTAs. This study will provide critical information for health care systems to contain costs while maintaining patient outcomes.

This document is currently not available here.