The Role of the Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant at OSC

Orthopaedic & Spine Center
Image of Fred Wintermantel, LPTA

Frederick Wintermantel III, LPTA

Physical Therapy is an important part of the treatment plan for many of the Orthopaedic and Pain Management patients seen daily by the physicians at OSC.  These patients may have a sports-related injury, may have been injured at work or maybe suffering from the aches and pains associated with arthritis.  Whatever the musculoskeletal condition, patients can benefit from a targeted exercise regimen designed to improve strength, flexibility and movement. OSC Licensed Physical Therapist Assistants (LPTAs) work closely with OSC Licensed Physical Therapists to assist patients with their rehabilitation.

An LPTA must have, at a minimum, an Associate’s Degree with two years specific education in an accredited Physical Therapist Assistants program.  We study a variety of areas, which include anatomy, exercise physiology, behavioral sciences, ethics, biomechanics, etc. We also must complete 16 weeks of clinical rotations where we work with patients and under direct supervision of a licensed Physical Therapist or Therapist Assistant. Upon graduation, we then must pass a rigorous national licensing/certification/regulation examination to be able to practice professionally as an LPTA in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  We are also required to complete continuing education courses annually to stay up-to-date on the latest advancements in physiotherapy.

LPTAs who work at OSC’s Physical Therapy Center can work under the discretion of any Physical Therapist (PT) but typically are assigned to a Physical Therapy Team, for scheduling purposes, and for better patient care.  After the PT completes a patient evaluation and assessment, they will design a functional rehabilitation treatment plan for each patient, specific to their lifestyle, job and the activities they enjoy and want to return to after rehab.  It is my job as a LPTA to assist the patient with working through the plan and to progress them to completion.  While collaborating with the supervising PT, the plan and treatment can be modified to better fit patient progression until discharge.

My average work day will have me working with patients according to the treatment plan designed by their OSC PT.  That often means using modalities (heat packs, laser treatments, traction, H-wave ESTIM, etc.) to help with pain, inflammation and stiffness. I also demonstrate the proper form and technique for completing the exercises specific to each patient, and offer feedback for correction if I see their form is not correct.

I become more than just a treating therapist.  I have to wear many hats, to include, but not limited to: Being a coach for the patient when they feel they cannot complete an activity or exercise; a shoulder to lean on when they are down in the dumps and feel they are never going to get better; or a sounding board when they just need to let go of frustration because they perceive they are not getting better fast enough. I also communicate how well or poorly the patient is progressing and if they are compliant or non-compliant to my supervising PT and the referring OSC physician.

Just like most Clinicians, LPTAs have areas of specialty that we enjoy more than others.  We love working with all different kinds of patients: athletes, post-surgical rehabilitation, those who are looking to improve fitness and conditioning, and those with vestibular and balance issues.  Whatever we do, we try to connect with the patient to get a better understanding of what they, as a person, want out of Physical Therapy.

Going through Physical Therapy can be a challenging process, like when rehabilitating from a knee replacement surgery. However, if I can help the patient lighten their mood and focus on the positives (with a little laughter, humor, or cartwheel or two), it can go a long way in making the patient experience much better.