When most people think about physical therapy, they think about a physical therapy clinic, for example, where patients go to seek help for a specific problem and receive therapy and various other treatments. This is certainly true, but it’s only one piece of the field as a whole. In fact, physical therapy assistants can work in nearly a dozen different types of settings, each with different focuses, clientele, expected outcomes and more.
The above assumption about physical therapy and PTAs is certainly not ill-informed. In fact, about 72% of physical therapist assistants either work in hospitals or privately owned physical therapy practices. Clearly, that’s the majority of the field. It’s also important to note though that within hospitals, and within privately owned clinics, the specialties or patients can be quite different, and fall into many different categories.
One very important work setting for PTAs is acute care within hospitals. This is a setting wherein PTAs work with patients who are immediately recovering from major injury, illness or other trauma, or recovering from a major surgical procedure. The goal here is to get the patient healthy enough to leave the hospital and leave acute care as quickly and successfully as possible.
Hospitals often also have long-term rehabilitation units or centers. This can be both in an acute or sub-acute setting, with acute patients requiring intensive therapy for more than 3 hours per day, while sub-acute patients will need less than that, and may even be seeking rehabilitation in a hospital without staying there overnight for an extended period of time.
Physical therapy assistants also work in home health care situations. Home health care may be providing in a patient’s home or in another setting that they live, whether it’s a hospice, nursing home, special community, hospital, or even another community location. Home health care is actually the most lucrative job setting for PTAs in the workplace today.
As mentioned, privately owned clinics account for a large portion of individuals in the field. Private outpatient clinics can either be broad in scope, or very specific. All clients may be welcome, or you may work in a facility which specializes in sports injuries, in youth injuries and conditions, in wellness, therapeutic and prevention focused clinics, and so forth.
The list of potential job sites and settings doesn’t end there for PTAs. There are extended care facilities such as nursing homes, there are PTAs in schools of all age ranges and sizes, PTAs hired by individual companies or corporations, hospices with full-time PTAs in-house, governmentally employed PTAs, and PTAs working in full-time research settings to help develop and test new treatments.
Clearly, the scope of work settings for PTAs extends far beyond the hospital and the private clinic, although as mentioned, the majority of the workforce will find their homes there. Outside of that though, there are any number of alternative settings, and that ensures that any professional can find their niche and really love what they do over the long haul, and the way they get to interact with patients each and every day.