What is a Physical Therapy Assistant?
Physical therapy assistants are educated and trained in the evaluation and treatment of human disorders of the body through physicality. Injuries physical therapy assistants deal with can be the result of disease, injury or other circumstances. The goal of the physical therapy assistant is to help the physical therapist in treating those who suffer from impairment or impaired function related to their integumentary, cardiopulmonary, musculoskeletal or neurological systems. Those of all occupations and ages benefit from what physical therapists and their assistants have to offer. Great problem solving skills and good communication are vitally important to a career as a physical therapy assistant. Just as important is the ability for a physical therapy assistant to put a patient at ease. Patients come to physical therapy because of pain whether it’s from an injury or after surgery. Patience and the ability to meet the patients where they are is an invaluable skill that must be honed in order to be successful.
What you will learn as a Physical Therapy Assistant
A candidate interested in becoming a physical therapy assistant should posses a high school diploma or its equivalent. Many states have requirements to becoming a physical therapy assistant including the completion of an accredited physical therapy assistant program. The majority of these programs require a two year commitment and at the end of it the candidate has an associate’s degree.
There are a variety of courses studied for those enrolled in a physical therapy assistant program that may include subjects such as:
- and many more
In addition to coursework all physical therapy assistant candidates much successfully complete and become certified in first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Practical experience in the field is also a part of the curriculum most schools establish. Once the program of study is complete, physical therapy assistants are required by most state laws to pass an examination so that they can be licensed as a physical therapy assistant.
Training to become a Physical Therapy Assistant
Each state has very specific instructions and requirements in becoming a certified physical therapy assistant. It is incumbent upon each candidate to properly research their state’s requirements in order to secure and maintain certification. Some states may require not only the passing of an examination but also a certain number of hours of additional training in order to keep certification current.
Job Outlook for a Physical Therapy Assistant
The outlook for physical therapists according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is very promising. In 2010, the median average salary for a physical therapy assistant was $37,710 annually or roughly $18.13 per hour. There is also an expectation that there will be a significant rise in the number of physical therapy assistants over the course of the next 10 years upwards of 45% from 114,400 in 2010 to approximately 160,000 in 2020. Because of the fact that baby boomers are coming of age, the demand for physical therapists and their assistants will consistently be high because baby boomers tend to stay active throughout their lives. Chronic pain and injuries are not age specific and rehabilitation and treatment is the service physical therapy assistants provide to their patients. There is no age limit to the patients’ physical therapy assistants work with so the demand for well trained, knowledgeable and certified physical therapy assistants is certainly promising.
Where Physical Therapist Assistants work
The work environment for physical therapy assistants is varied from clinics, hospital, and private practice to nursing homes and home health care agencies. Some physical therapy assistants work with athletic programs, in schools, institutions of higher learning and rehabilitation centers. Physical therapy assistants spend a great deal of time on their feet, engaging with clients and meeting the physical needs of their patients. Because many medical facilities are open seven days a week, flexibility in scheduling is also something that must be considered when pursuing this career.
Resources to help in Selecting a School for Physical Therapy Assistant
Choosing a program to study to become a physical therapy assistant is important and professionals in the discipline suggest that the program should be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Other considerations include facilities, student demographics, program curriculum and structure, faculty and years of teaching experience, training opportunities and opportunities for practical clinical experience.
There are a number of online resources to assist individuals in selecting the right physical therapy assistant program to meet their needs. Following is a list of some of the available resources: