HATTIESBURG – Students in Pearl River Community College’s physical therapist assistant’s program at the Forrest County Center recently learned first-hand about some of the challenges their clients face, and that they will encounter once they enter the workforce.
Freshmen PTA students arrived at Turtle Creek Mall to learn empathy for those patients they will teach to use an assistive device for mobility. Crutches, walkers, hemi-walkers and wheelchairs were used.
“Each student used one type of assistive device for an hour and then a different assistive device for another hour,” said Patti Scuderi, chair of the Department of Physical Therapist Assistant Technology.
“During the two-hour period, the students were instructed to get lunch at the food court and maneuver through stores and the restroom while using the assistive device correctly. Not long into the first hour, it was quickly realized by most students that using assistive devices requires muscles that are not ordinarily used. Thus, those muscles fatigued quickly and some students stated they were already sore from using the assistive device.”
Said one student, “It's just not that easy when you have to walk with a walker or crutches and only use one leg for a long period of time. We need to be mindful of that when we teach our patients how to use these devices.”
The physical therapist assistant’s program at PRCC is a two-year program of study that prepares students to work within the practice of physical therapy under the supervision of a physical therapist. PTAs are employed in hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, extended care facilities, home health agencies and other health care settings.
“Most people have played around on crutches and in a wheelchair, but do it for such a brief period of time they really get no sense of how difficult it is when an assistive device is required for functional mobility,” said Scuderi. “Our PTA students now know just how difficult it is.”
She said PTAs enjoy a rapidly growing profession and admission to the program is selective and competitive. Upon satisfactory completion of the program, students earn the Associate in Applied Science degree and are eligible for state licensing. Average salaries in the Hattiesburg area are $43,000 to $50,000 per year.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook (www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm) lists PTAs as the third fastest growing occupation between 2014-2024, with the median pay of $54,410 in 2014. The handbook also lists physical therapists as the eighth fastest growing occupations during the same time period.
To learn more about the PTA program, go to the PTA homepage at https://www.prcc.edu/career-tech/physical-therapist-assistant or call 601-554-5486.
PTA freshmen students from left: Front row – Shelby Sterling of Liberty, Courtney Wilson of Inverness, Mercedes Brown of Prentiss, Scott Cavanaugh of Saucier, Jana Morgan of Osyka and Kristen Byrd of Summit, Alex Domino of Indianola and Macy Barksdale of Columbus. Second row – Linzy Kline of Picayune, Hunter Phillips and Mark Monton of Hattiesburg, Carrvenna Maddox of Hattiesburg, Victoria Garner of Foxworth, Erin Little of Petal, Berkley Warnick of Aberdeen and Shannon Taylor of Purvis. Back row – Cory Johnson of Hattiesburg, Jessica Nobles of Gulfport and Francis Johnson of Moss Point.