Reggie Smith graduated from the Physical Therapist Assistant program  at Carrington College’s Mesa campus in July 2013. Reggie’s always loved working with the body and he’s always liked helping people achieve their goals, whatever they may be.
“I always felt like the body was kind of my thing. I started in massage therapy, moved into personal training – I worked with some teams, at a couple of gyms, had my own stuff on the side. Then before I came to Carrington I worked briefly, for about six months or so, as a physical therapy technician.”
Reggie got a PTT job at the facility he works at now, HealthSouth Scottsdale Rehab Hospital, but after a few months he felt like he wanted more than being a technician could give him.
“I talked to some of the therapists at the hospital about the direction they took. A lot of people seem to go into physical therapy because they went through PT themselves after an injury, that’s kind of what got them into the field. I played sports my whole life, but I never had any major injuries, so that wasn’t the case for me.”
What really got Reggie excited about becoming a physical therapist assistant was learning that he’d be able to use his personal training background to help people get stronger, as well as his massage experience. He also liked the fact that PTAs have more patient responsibility than technicians, even though both work under the supervision of licensed physical therapists.
“For me it seemed like PTA would be the best of both worlds all rolled up into one. An assistant is more qualified than a technician; we have a license, technicians don’t. Technically, an assistant can do everything that the actual physical therapist does, except for the initial evaluations, creation of care plans and discharges.”
That’s right, Reggie works FOUR jobs! HealthSouth is his full-time Monday through Friday gig, but he also works weekends at Scottsdale Shea Medical Center (an acute rehab facility), and some nights at a long-term care facility. He also recently started as a clinical instructor at Carrington, helping out with some neurology classes.
“I specialize in neurology, so they asked me to help out when they get to the neuro courses. I come in and help with labs, add a little guidance and show students what happens in the real world, as opposed to the lab setting.”
Reggie has a great support system. He lives with girlfriend Molly and has shared custody of a 13 year old daughter and 9 year old son.
“Molly is a big help. She helps with the kids, she helps with my crazy schedule and she helps keep my head on straight! She’s a nurse, so it helps that we can sit down and talk about a lot of stuff.”
Reggie’s used to having a crazy busy schedule. He kept working while at school, maximizing his hours where he could. He worked as part-time physical therapy tech at HealthSouth in the evenings and weekends, going to school during the day.
“I even picked up some night shifts to help the nurses overnight. Sometimes I’d finish school on a Friday afternoon, pick up some hours in Rehab until we closed at 5pm/6pm. From 6pm to 6am, I’d work overnight helping the nurses, and then back to Rehab on Saturday morning since I was already at the hospital. I’d do the same through Sunday. Sunday night I’d go home and do my homework.”
I Love a Challenge
One of the things Reggie enjoys most is rising to a challenge. He first planned to focus on orthopedics (knee injuries, shoulder injuries, hip replacements, those kind of things) but as he moved through the PTA program he developed a love for neurology, everything and anything to do with the brain!
That’s what he specializes in today; he loves it because it challenges him, he is always learning. As far as the future, Reggie has no desire to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT).
“They have to deal with a lot of paperwork, insurance companies, all that kind of stuff. I’m happy just dealing with my patients and giving them everything they need. That’s what I love about it. A few years down the road, maybe five or so, I’d like to do more teaching at Carrington. It would be really nice to grow a relationship with students, to guide them through the program. They’d know that I’ve ‘been there, done that’ myself, and that would help.”
That’s a pretty intense schedule to keep up while in school. It isn’t something Reggie would recommend for everybody.
“A lot of it came easy to me so I didn’t have to study quite as hard. I already knew a lot of stuff because of my background working with the body and muscles. But when it came it to the PTA modalities and treatments, that was when I had to focus!”
To find the stamina needed to do well at school, hold down a job and keep a family happy, you need to choose something you’re passionate about. Reggie’s passion is helping people improve their quality of life.
“It’s very self-satisfying. I work mainly with geriatrics, so when I meet a 70, 80 or 90 year old who is very immobile – maybe they can’t get out of bed, get dressed on their own or walk to their own kitchen – it’s very satisfying to help them improve their strength and mobility. They are so appreciative when they get to the point that they can get out of a chair and go make a sandwich on their own. Helping people is what it’s all about.”
Reggie works mainly with people recovering from brain injuries, orthopedic cases (things like knee or hip replacements) and strokes, as well as people with diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or Dementia. He loves what he does.
Choose PTA Because You Love It
Reggie explains that being a PTA is a very demanding job, both physically and mentally. Sometimes the mental part of the job is harder than the physical side of things. He suggests you do your homework before committing to the program or career.
“If you go into this career just because it seems like a good job and the money’s good, then you’re in it for the wrong reasons. Really look into it, make sure you’re suited to it. I deal with a lot of patients who aren’t in a very good place mentally. They can be frustrated at their situation, angry that they can’t do the things they could before. And they will take it out on you. It’s a very mentally demanding job so make sure you get into it for the right reason.”
A good PTA needs to have a strong personality. If you’re shy and quiet, then becoming a PTA might not be the best choice for you. You need to be strong enough to help get your patients out of their funk and into a better place mentally before you can help them physically.
“Don’t take things too seriously. You’ve got to have thick skin. You have to have a lot of patience, and the care and compassion to want this person to do better, to help them improve their quality of life and achieve their goal.”
For Reggie, focusing on his patient’s goal is very important – whether it’s getting back on the golf course, getting down on the floor to play with their grandkids, or walking their daughter down the aisle.
To learn more about Carrington College’s Physical Therapist Assistant program, click here.
 Carrington College prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their individual majors. The College does not guarantee students will successfully pass these exams or be certified or licensed as a result of completing the program. Credential preparation varies by location.