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The Career Future For Physical Therapist Assistants

Seeking employment as an assistant to a physical therapist can be a rewarding career choice, allowing aspiring professionals to work directly with patients suffering from different physical ailments in the healthcare industry.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in this particular field is predicted to increase by approximately 45 percent until 2020, which is above average for the national employment rate.

With an increase in long-term healthcare, physical therapy plays a vital role in helping patients resume their normal activities.

Physical Therapist Assistant Duties

qanda-300x201 2Assisting physical therapists provide high-quality healthcare to those suffering from physical ailments, physical therapy assistants administer various prescribed procedures and therapies by recording patients’ progress and relaying that information back to the physical therapist.

Many times, treatment involves working one on one with bedridden patients, helping them regain muscle tone and physical coordination.

Physical therapy assistants can also assist with fending off long-term degenerative disorders in the elderly, helping them maintain an independent, active lifestyle for as long as possible.

With a growing emphasis on being physically fit and living a healthy lifestyle, a dramatic increase in athletic centers has resulted in the need of physical therapy assistants to help individuals develop an exercise routine and help them become physically trim without risking crippling injuries.

Main duties that physical therapy assistants practice include:

  • Administrating treatments
  • Measuring patient progress, responses, and vitals
  • Recording patient data
  • Instructing and motivating patients to adapt to treatment, carry out exercises, and manage prosthesis and support devices
  • Assisting with team-based treatment plans
  • Providing patient feedback to physiotherapist
  • Conferring with staff members
  • Developing and evaluating treatment plans
  • Managing administrative and clerical duties, such as equipment and supply supervision, work area cleanliness, telephone calls, and other clinical tasks
  • Providing in-home care for the mobile impaired

Physical therapist assistants need to hold the necessary skills required to be successful in the healthcare field, including basic healthcare techniques and soft tissue treatment.

Being able to perform soft tissue manipulation, identify anatomical structures, providing therapeutic massages, assist with stretching, and apply therapy techniques are crucial to helping patients attain pre-injury status.

Aspiring physical therapy assistants should have a thorough knowledge of patient assistance to and from the treatment center, wheelchair management, walking skills improvement, and other body mechanic techniques.

Physical Therapist Assistant Education

Accredited physical therapy assistant programs take a minimum of two years to finish, comprising of different modules and clinical experiences to help students implement theoretical training in a supervised environment. Pre-requisite requirements prepare professionals for the general education coursework, including subjects in:

  • Physical science, such as biology, chemistry, or anatomy
  • Mathematics
  • Social and behavioral science, such as sociology, anthropology, or psychology
  • Life skills coursework, such as computer

Most states require aspiring physical therapy assistants to undergo postsecondary programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), which is through the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). Earning an associate’s degree to be a physical therapy assistant requires a focus in rehabilitation methods and techniques.

Coursework may include topics like:

  • Therapeutic exercises
  • Physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Healthcare law
  • Rehabilitation procedures
  • Human development

In the final three semesters, the physical therapy assistant curriculum incorporates clinical practicums, such as first aid training, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and clinical experience.

Most employers prefer physical therapy assistants to have prior clinical experience, viewing it as a vital qualification for employment consideration.

PTA Schools By State

Physical Therapist Assistant Career Choices

A study performed by the BLS showed that physical therapy assistants earn $37,710 annually, averaging out to $18.13 per hour.

With a wide range of career paths available in the healthcare field, physical therapy assistants can seek employment opportunities in hospitals, clinics, convalescent homes, or healthcare facilities.

Other employment opportunities include:

  • Specialty clinics
  • Outpatient rehabilitation centers
  • Senior citizen support services
  • Sports facilities
  • Government departments

The majority of physical therapy assistants work in physician’s offices or medical clinics. With an increase in elderly patients, effective physical therapy treatment in elder-care facilities has resulted in an increase in employment opportunities for assistants of physical therapists.

A growing demand for aspiring assistants in rural areas allows aspiring professionals to travel among the community, offering effective in-home healthcare services for the mobile impaired and shut-ins.

Physical Therapy Assistant Certifications

Most states require those seeking employment as an assistant to a physical therapist to obtain registration, licensure, or certification through relevant state bodies. Certification often requires professionals to complete accredited physical therapy assistant programs.

In order to legally work as an assistant to a physical therapist, individuals need to successfully complete a National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), which is administered through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.

Depending on the state of practice, individuals may be required to pass a state exam like the jurisprudence examination as well as may need to renew their certification by completing continuing education credits in order to retain their licensure. If the individual has already obtained licensure through a different state, some states will allow that person to obtain licensure through endorsement.

Physical therapy assistants can specialize in a specific field of the physical therapy industry, such as pediatric, aquatic, or geriatric physical therapy; however, special certification is required in order to work in specific fields.

The APTA offers a certification program, but professionals need to obtain 2,000 hours of relevant clinical experience as well as 60 hours of continuing education credits within the past five years. Those who wish to candidate for this certification must also obtain APTA membership, prove leadership experience, and submit reference letters.

Physical therapy assistants who fulfill all APTA requirements will earn the Certificate of Advance Proficiency, opening many more career opportunities with higher pay.

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