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Physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are engaged in a variety of supervisory situations. The most important common factor that all types of supervision involve is the understanding that delegation does not in any way mean abdication. Licensed professionals are granted rights and expected to meet the obligations associated with their professional responsibility. Physical therapists may be supervised by another individual, yet they must maintain professional autonomy in decision making that benefits the patients they serve. All physical therapists have supervisory responsibilities when practicing in a setting that employs office help and aides as well as other PTs and PTAs. In addition, if a physical therapist has the opportunity to supervise students, another layer of supervision is encountered. Supervision can become very complex, with individuals having to answer to several supervisors simultaneously, for example, a supervisor for administrative duties and another for clinical practice. Communication is the key to good supervisor–supervisee relationships. An effective supervisor makes performance expectations clear and applies rules fairly and consistently. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to develop and maintain a supportive environment that all employees, regardless of their positions, are valued and treated with respect for their contributions to the organization.

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Long-Distance Supervision Inappropriate supervision
Supervision Revision Supervision conflict
PRN PT or PTA Resisting supervision


Inappropriate supervision

When we receive our license to practice, we are granted certain rights under the law, but we also have taken on certain responsibilities. It is imperative that we be familiar with and adhere to all dictates of the practice acts of states within which we work. To do otherwise is both illegal and unethical.

Sandra has been a physical therapist assistant (PTA) for 2 years. Her first job was at an outpatient clinic where a friend of hers also was employed, but she’d always wanted to work at a skilled nursing facility (SNF). When the opportunity arises to join a large company that owns SNFs in several states, she seeks out and secures a position. It strikes her as a perfect fit, in that she wants to serve older adults, the salary and benefits are better than they were in her old job, and she knows that she could at some point relocate within the same company if she so chooses.

In fact, one of the conditions of employment is that Sandra get licensed and be willing to substitute as needed at an SNF across the river, in a neighboring state from the facility at which she regularly works. She has no hesitation agreeing to this stipulation, as the other facility is only a 15-minute drive from her home.

Sandra is assigned to a small subacute facility in her home state for orientation and her first few months of employment. She quickly establishes a strong working relationship with Lori, her supervising physical therapist (PT). Lori is a wonderful ...

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