Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant in Virginia
Physical therapy has become a vital component of America’s healthcare sector. Whether it is to enable the victims of a traumatic accident to regain their full physical capabilities, or to assist an amputee in learning how to effectively use his or her prosthetics, the effective use of physical therapy is a vital component of many medical treatment plans.
Due to the growing need for qualified physical therapists and physical therapist assistants, this field is expected to experience sustained growth in the future. Because of this, physical therapy assistants in Virginia can expect excellent employment and salary prospects.
The Duties of a Physical Therapist Assistant
The physical therapist assistant works with physicians, physical therapists and other medical professionals to develop and implement a plan of physical therapy for their patients. Due to the fact that the required physical therapy will be closely related to the patient’s underlying health condition, individual patients will require their own unique physical therapy plan. For this reason, physical therapy assistants must be capable of accurately following the prescribed course of physical therapy for all of their patients.
Among the most common duties of a physical therapy assistant are the following:
- Working with the physician and physical therapist to develop and implement a plan of physical therapy that is suited to the patient’s needs.
- Assisting the patient in carrying out any required physical therapy. In some cases, this may require supporting some or all of the patient’s weight.
- The physical therapist assistant will instruct the patient and any caregivers in how to safely use mobility aids, such as wheelchairs or walkers. This can be especially important in the case of the elderly who face a higher risk of suffering fall related injuries.
- When working with elderly individuals with cognitive disorders such as senile dementia, the physical therapist assistant will have to help them comprehend and follow his or her instructions.
A growing number of physical therapist assistants are involved in in-home care. This field involves traveling to the patient’s home and evaluating the patient’s progress on behalf of the physical therapist and other medical professionals. In many cases, they will also work with the patient’s family, especially in the case of elderly individuals. This care may be related to a specific injury, or may be an ongoing process of therapy.
Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Virginia
Virginia, like all other states, requires that any practicing physical therapist assistant obtain a license from the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy. This group requires that any individual seeking licensure complete the following steps:
- Be 18 years or older at the time of application.
- Have completed a two-year physical therapist assistant program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
- Have passed the National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE).
Physical Therapy Assistant Programs
Physical therapy assistant programs are usually offered by community colleges and vocational training institutions. These programs provide an in depth education in the practical and academic aspects of the field of physical therapy, preparing the students to provide excellent care to their patients. In most cases, a full-time student will require about two years to complete the program.
In addition to full-time students, most programs also enroll part-time students. These students, many of whom are currently working at a full-time job, can attend classes on the weekends and evenings, allowing them to plan their academic work around their current responsibilities. In addition, many programs allow some classes to be taken online and at the student’s own pace.
Taking the NPTE
The NPTE is a national examination for physical therapist assistants and is designed to ensure that any passing individual possesses the knowledge needed to provide effective care to his or her patients. If a candidate fails the NPTE more than three times, he or she must obtain approval from the Board to retake the test. This approval will only be given after the candidate has presented a plan of study to rectify his or her areas of deficiency on the exam. For this reason, candidates should only take the examination when they are confident of passing it.
Licensure by Endorsement
Finally, an individual who is already licensed to practice in another state may obtain a license in Virginia by endorsement, after presenting the Board with the required materials proving his or her qualifications. However, physical therapy assistants require a Virginia license to practice in Virginia, no matter what types of licenses they may hold in other states.
Becoming a licensed physical therapy assistant is an excellent professional choice. In addition, the personal rewards of assisting injured and ill individuals to regain their physical capabilities cannot be underestimated. Whether the candidate is intending to become a physical therapy assistant as their first long-term career, or have decided to transition from another job, they will find this field a challenging and rewarding one.
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