We talk a lot about a career as a physical therapy assistant. We talk a lot about how to get a degree, a license, and a job.
We even talk a lot about what PTAs do at their jobs and where PTA work.
But we thought in this post we would share a little about the PTA themselves, about their character and personalities. The traits, qualities, and skills that make them successful.
So, if you’ve been wondering what the most important personality traits for a physical therapist assistant are, look no further.
For this post, we surveyed PTs and PTAs across the country to discover the most commonly shared personality and character traits we could find.
Then we researched to see what the BLS and other employer survey data said about successful qualities of PT and the best physical therapist personality traits.
In this post, we will share the data from our survey and research.
So, without further ado, here are the top physical therapy personality traits for PT and PTA.
Qualities Of Successful Physical Therapists
Anyone interested in becoming a physical therapy assistant, or physical therapist, would want to learn the most common physical therapist personality traits of successful professionals.
There are many skills and personality traits to cover to answer the question of what are the successful qualities of a physical therapist.
So, we will start with the basic skills for PT. Then we will go onto other transferable skills before moving into the physical therapy personality traits that are found in successful therapists.
Basic Skills for PT
The following skills are ranked on a 10 pt scale and by low, medium, and high importance for a PT career:
- Reading comprehension – (Medium 5)
- Active listening – (high 6)
- Writing – (Medium 4)
- Speaking – (Medium 5)
- Science – (Medium 3)
- Critical thinking – (Medium 5)
- Active learning – (Medium 3)
- Learning strategies – (Medium 3)
- Monitoring – (Medium 4)
- Mathematics – (low 2)
Here are some PT skills that will be transferable to other health care careers or PT related positions.
- Providing medical and health care advice and instruction
- Setting up and operating medical equipment for diagnosis and procedures
- Analyzing patients and preparing health care treatments
- Working as a part of a health care team
- Treating both mental and physical health problems (mostly physical)
Workplace skills consist of the duties and responsibilities that would help any professional be successful in a wide variety of positions.
Below is a list of the workplace skills acquired when working as a PT or a PTA.
- Complex problem solving
- Time management
- Communication and coordination
- Decision making
- Educating clients
- Instructing staff
- Resource management
- Operations analysis
- Service orientation
- Systems (analysis and evaluation)
- Social perceptiveness
Strong Communication Skills
Firstly, communication is a huge deal! And, it must be fully transparent.
Simply put, the patient must be able to fully understand their condition.
When patients understand what is happening, they are more likely to corporate as you discuss a viable plan for treatment.
Organized and Scheduled
In addition to treating your patients, your organizational skills must be on top of their game.
You will definitely be dealing with staff who are there to support you, administration and even scheduling your future appointments.
As you go along, you will need to become more efficient, as such, some of your tasks would need to be automated and properly organized.
Nowadays, many PTs are gaining competitive advantages by leveraging physical therapy practice management software to stay organized.
Accountable and Credible
As you get into practice, prospective patients should be able to see that you are accountable as well as credible.
Only when both check out can their therapy be successful.
People must find you accountable and credible in order to build trust with you. Trust is required if their treatment is to be successful.
So, get comfortable with your core values as a PT or PTA. Communicate them with your patients and always request feedback.
Building trust through communication will actively show your patients how accountable and credible you are.
Fit and Mobile
Some of the daily tasks performed involve being able to simulate technical movements as well as assist patients as they accept treatment.
For this reason, professionals should increase their strength in order to prevent injury to themselves as well as the patients.
Additionally, flexibility activities should be performed regularly since PT professionals must support patients of varying body types.
It is best to lead patients by example so they don’t feel like you are preaching at them but rather showing them how.
If you present a shining example of how to perform PT exercises then your patients will have a better guide and should perform the exercises better themselves.
Sociable and Approachable
And last but not least, considering that physical therapists and assistants work with countless people and also interact with other colleagues on a day to day basis, they need to be sociable.
PT professionals should be approachable, they need to be able to interact freely as well as properly with patients of all ages who come from many walks of life and culture.
In addition, therapists should also seek to establish communication with the family members as well as caretakers of their patients. There will be much info that these people need to understand as well.
In general, keeping communication open and being approachable with your patients and their families is important.
Those who understand PT and their treatment well are usually more than receptive and suited for therapy and attain better results.
PTAs go through 2 years of rigorous education and clinical trials.
They are experts in their trade just behind the licensed DPT. PTAs know a vast amount about the human movement system even if they don’t have quite as much education as a licensed DPT.
If you are going to be a successful PTA, plan on continuing your education and staying knowledgeable on the latest updates in the physical therapy field.
So, if you’re the type of person whose peers are always relying on you for knowledge, knowing that you have done your research, then you’ve got these characteristics covered.
As mundane as performing physical therapy 40 hours a week may seem at times. And as important as that text message waiting your response may seem at times.
A good PTA remains patient when working with their clients. They understand that their clients appreciate their patience when going through therapy treatments to recover.
Many times clients have waited a while to see you and the last thing they want is to feel rushed.
Patience isn’t just a personality trait for physical therapist assistants, you should develop this character trait in general to live a joyful and peaceful life and to be successful in any endeavor that you pursue.
Simply guiding patients through the motions isn’t enough. Good PTAs are astutely paying attention to their patients observing for problems.
This way treatment is progressive and problems are solved. You must understand that two people with the same injury may, in fact, need different therapy or at the very least minor adjustments to the same therapy plan.
If you are just simply going through the motions and not astutely observing your patients then it will be hard for you to determine the specific needs of each of your individual clients.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, experience is education.
This is true with Physical Therapy, and so you should look at your experience with your patients as education from your educators.
Treat them with respect and humbleness. In addition to learning from your patients, you should be learning from yourself and your colleagues. But most importantly be humble in your dealings with all.
Being humble is like being patient. You will find more success in any career, not just physical therapy, by developing this personality trait.
Keep a good positive perspective at all times.
If a PTA has a negative attitude, then they will not live up to their potential. I’m not saying everything should be rosy, but it should be realistic through a positive lens.
Learn to redirect and brush off negative thoughts, focus on progress and improvement. The more you believe in yourself and your work, the more your patients will believe in their treatment too.
Sometimes you might catch yourself spew some jargon from a textbook when you look at your patient and they are giving you a funny face.
Although you may know what it meant and what is going on with the treatment, your patient may not. Try to be relatable and use language that your patients can understand – laymen’s terms.
Patients will be late and systems will go down. Equipment will break or require servicing.
Coffee might even run out from time to time! Learn to adapt.
Staying positive will come into play here. Improvise, innovate, find a way to make it work.
Don’t over promise your colleagues or yourself.
Know your limits and stay realistic with your commitments and actions.
Know when to refer someone elsewhere or to ask for assistance.
You will feel better than if you try to take on a too big of a bite that you can’t chew.
You work with people. You don’t build things or service things.
You help human beings with feelings recover from injury, illness, and trauma.
So, yes you need to have a caring nature. You are in some ways a caretaker for these people during their therapy treatments. They will need your care and help.
Plus, showing you care will earn you a nice reputation, more follow-ups and referrals, fewer lawsuits, and most of all more successful treatments. Boom.
Get ready to be the go-to person at the clinic who does pretty much everything.
A jack of all trades who also happens to be an expert at physical therapy.
Yep, that is what you’re signing up for.
You should be an interesting person who can carry on a conversation with clients and colleagues and be able to relate to all different ages and types of people.
There you go. The top personality traits for physical therapist assistants. Well, does this list sound like you?
If you have some of the best physical therapist personality traits then you should consider becoming a PTA.
You might also want to learn about the positive physical therapy job outlook through 2026.
If you are a PTA tell us one of your strongest characteristics as a physical therapist assistant in the comments below 🙂
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