Submitted By: Jacklyn Penner and Mandy Snively
Jacklyn Penner tends to describe the role of an Occupational Therapist Assistant (OTA) and Physiotherapist Assistant (PTA) like the meat in a hamburger, while the therapists would be the bun (the initial assessors, and discharge planners and of course treatment implementers and front line staffers as well). The meat being: the treatment and day to day care of the patients.
OTA/PTA’s spend a lot of time with patients, and are really front line workers. Jacklyn and Mandy Snively want to advocate for their profession to colleagues in the organization. There are so many roles the OTA/PTA’s can do, and they want to spread awareness that even though they are not regulated under a college, they are regulated by ethics in the hospital and under the Canadian government in terms of patient safety and being accountable legally for our actions. We are accountable for the care we provide and proud of the care we provide within our OTA/PTA role.
You can see OTA/PTA’s throughout the hospital, including: acute medicine, inpatient acute brain injury, acute spinal cord and trauma, cardiac care unit, cardiology and vascular, ABI Rehab, Inpatient rehab, Acute Stoke rehab, Inpatient and Day Hospital Amputee Care, Inpatient and Outpatient Spinal Cord Rehab, Outpatient Orthopedics, Neurology, MSK, Stroke, Occupational Therapy, Driving Assessments, Hydrotherapy, Palliative Care and Complex Medicine, to name a few. Everything they do contributes to a better quality of life for their patients.
The role of the OTA/PTA is to implement the therapists and patients goals after the initial assessments and treatment planning. Of interest: OTA/PTA’s can do standardized assessments and outcome measures themselves under the direction of the therapist. Most therapists give a goal and then work with the OTA/PTA or allow the OTA/PTA to collaborate with exercises based on the patients goals, and needs. We perform under the guidance, direction and supervision of a therapist.
Mandy stresses that her profession doesn’t just work with patients in the gym on the treadmill or doing lifts. They also can specialize in assessing equipment, determining safe surfaces, ensuring comfort with mattresses and wheelchairs, positioning, preventative measures, and work in the therapy pool.
On top of their daily work load both Mandy and Jacklyn sit on various committees and teach at Mohawk McMaster as lab instructors and preceptors. They also run Education Grand Rounds for their profession across the hospital.
OTA/PTAs are a distinct professional but an essential part of the team. They add value, have clinical judgement, and are highly skilled. There is so much that they can do.