Physical Therapist Assistants: Getting The Career You Want

Physical therapist assistants provide help and assistance to professional physical therapists. They play an active role in implementing physical therapy treatment programs. They also assist patients in going through the therapy program. Physical therapist assistants can work in different healthcare settings.

These healthcare providers work under the supervision of a physical therapist. They are always there when physical therapists treat patients in recovering from an injury or illness, managing pain and regaining movement after a surgical procedure. Physical therapist assistants are not just assistants in the clinic. They do direct patient care as well. However, most of their tasks involve indirect patient care.

The Duties Of A Physical Therapist Assistant

The Duties Of A Physical Therapist AssistantA physical therapist aide or assistant has to observe the patient before and during the therapy. They have to record patient status and report to the physical therapist. They have to assist patients in doing physical exercises. An assistant to a PT has to know how to use a variety of techniques to treat patients like massaging. They have to teach and help patients how to use special devices and equipment like wheelchairs and walkers. Physical therapist assistants have to educate the patient and family members about the treatment program.

Further, a physical therapist assistant has to set up the equipment needed for the therapy and cleans the areas for treatment. He or she has help move a patient from one treatment area to another. A physical therapist assistant helps with the paperwork in the clinic, preparing insurance forms, takes care of billing, answer phone calls and schedules appointments. Under the supervision of the physical therapist, assistants help in giving therapeutic treatments including ultrasound, electrical stimulation, mechanical traction, massage, gait and balance training. They have to record all progress from the patient.

A physical therapist assistant helps in making treatment sessions more productive. Physical therapists can focus on the tasks rather than worrying about answering phone calls or welcoming patients.

Becoming A Physical Therapist Assistant

 A Physical Therapist AssistantTo become a physical therapist assistant, you must complete an associate degree in physical therapy first. This degree program should be accredited. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education gives the accreditation. Last year, there were 280 accredited associate degree programs available.

An associate degree in physical therapy is divided into classroom and clinical coursework. Classroom courses will include English, Algebra, Psychology, Anatomy and Physiology. As for the clinical coursework, physical therapist assistants are taught CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other first-aid methods. You will only need a high school diploma to apply for an associate degree. The degree program is to be completed in two years.

Physical therapist assistants have to develop personal qualities as well. They should be compassionate to patients, as they will be helping people recover from sickness and injuries. They must pay attention to detail since they will need to keep accurate patient records. Physical therapist assistants should have good dexterity, as they will be using their hands to perform manual therapy and therapeutic treatments. In addition, physical therapist assistants must have a moderate level of physical stamina. They should love physical activity, as most treatment sessions require standing, kneeling or bending for long periods.

The last thing that will keep you from becoming a physical therapist assistant is the license. Most states will require that physical therapist assistants obtain licenses before being hired for work. They must pass the National Physical Therapy Exam administered by every state licensing board. If you are successful in passing, you will obtain the license and can start working immediately.

Online Physical Therapy Degree Programs

Online physical therapy degree programs are available to anyone from anywhere. These physical therapy degrees are offered to individuals who want to become physical therapist assistants or physical therapists. Associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree are offered to those who want to start learning or expanding their physical therapy knowledge and training. There are many accredited online degree programs for physical therapy.

The Professional Career Of A Physical Therapist Assistant

In 2010, there were 67,400 physical therapist assistants in the U.S. 55% of them worked in ambulatory healthcare services while 28% worked in hospitals. 12% worked in nursing care and residential care facilities. Physical therapist assistants work full-time and only a quarter worked part time. Those working in physical therapy offices may work at night and weekend to be able to match their patient’s schedules more.

Jobs For Physical Therapist AssistantThe job outlook for physical therapist assistants are expected to grow at 46% from 2010-2020. This is a faster than average employment growth rate compared to other occupations. Also, employment for physical therapist assistants is growing faster than that of physical therapist aides. The bright employment outlook is due to the demand for physical therapy services. With the increasing aging population, more physical therapists and assistants are needed to respond to the health needs of the seniors.

In addition, the aging population is prone to heart attacks, which increase the demand for cardiac and physical rehabilitation. With bones and muscles growing weaker, more physical therapeutic services are needed. Since physical therapists are highly in demand, the role of physical therapist assistants is very important too. The presence of physical therapist aides or assistants reduced the cost of physical therapist services. Physical therapist and physical therapist assistants work hand-in-hand to continue earning money. A physical therapist can accept more patients with the help of the assistant.

Physical therapist assistants can find work easier in nursing homes, orthopedic care facilities and rehabilitation centers where the elderly are often treated. In addition, physical therapist aides or assistants have more job prospects in the rural areas as the urban areas are highly populated already.

The median annual salary for physical therapist assistants is $49,690. The top 10% earned more than $68,820 while the lower 10% earned less than $31,070.

The role of physical therapist aides or assistants in the healthcare industry is vital. They have an active role in direct patient care. With the bright career outlook, being a physical therapist assistant is a great career move to start with. This will allow you to gain work experience in the field of physical therapy, which will make it easier for you to become a physical therapist later.


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