Becoming a PTA in South Dakota
Physical therapy assistants (PTAs) have become an integral part of the modern American healthcare sector. Due to the importance of physical therapy in ensuring that patients of all types make a full recovery, PTAs are enjoying excellent employment and advancement prospects all over the United States.
South Dakota, with its mixture of urban and rural regions, combined with an increasingly aging population, is no exception to this trend.
Licensed PTAs in South Dakota can find a variety of long-term careers in the field of physical therapy, whether it is helping the elderly to remain independent in their golden years or assisting individuals to fully recover from traumatic injuries.
PTA Employment Options
PTAs work in a variety of fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most PTAs work in ambulatory care clinics, where they assist outpatients in carrying out a variety of physical therapy exercises. Other PTAs work in hospitals or convalescent homes, assisting individuals who are currently unable to live on their own.
Finally, many PTAs work in private practice, assisting their supervising physician or physical therapist in providing assistance to their patients.
Currently, the BLS has estimated that there are over 67,000 employed PTAs in America. By 2020, that number is expected to grow by at least 46 percent, which is far higher than the rate of job growth for most other professions. In addition, the median annual wage for PTAs in America is nearly $50,000 dollars, which is extremely competitive with other careers demanding a similar amount of education and training.
PTAs in South Dakota earn just over $33,000, but due to the states low cost of living, this sum is substantially equal to the salary a PTA working in a high cost state such as California or New York would receive.
PTAs and the Elderly
One source of sustained growth in the field of physical therapy is the increasing number of elderly individuals who are suffering from degenerative diseases or who need physical therapy to recover from various types of accidents. The growth in the elderly population is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, making this component of physical therapy one that will see increasing emphasis at all levels of the healthcare system in the years to come.
Becoming a PTA in South Dakota
South Dakota requires that all PTAs working in the state be licensed by the Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners, this body has the following requirements for anyone seeking to become a licensed PTA:
- Complete a PTA program at an accredited school.
- Complete the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).
- Complete the South Dakota application form, which is provided online.
Completing a Physical Therapy Assistant Program
A PTA program is designed to ensure that a graduating student has the practical and academic backing needed to become an effective PTA. These programs generally include a mixture of classroom instruction and hands on instruction in the field of physical therapy. They also help train the students in how to effectively work with their patients and their families during the process of providing physical therapy.
Generally, the subjects that will be covered include the following:
- Human anatomy, with a focus on musculature and bone structure.
- How to effectively and safely assist the patient to carry out physical therapy exercises.
- How to use various types of equipment when providing physical therapy.
- How to observe and properly report the patient’s progress to the PTAs supervising medical professionals.
- Some programs include classes focusing on various types of specialty treatment, for example pediatric physical therapy, or physical therapy for individuals who have suffered the loss of a limb.
Most PTA course take approximately two years for a full-time student to complete. Upon graduation, the student receives an associate’s degree. Some programs also include part-time options, which can allow students who are currently employed or who have to care for family members to attend classes on a schedule that is more suited to their situation.
While these students will usually take longer to complete the program than a full-time student, this allows them to finish the PTA program without overly disrupting their personal and professional lives.
Some programs allow their students to take some courses via distance learning. This allows the student to complete the coursework while remaining at home, which can be important for those students who find regularly traveling to class difficult. However, some courses may require the student’s physical presence, so students interested in distance learning options should consult with their school advisor.
South Dakota requires that all programs be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This organization ensures that an accredited program adheres to the highest educational standards. The student should ensure that his or her PTA program is accredited by and currently in good standing with the CAPTE.
Foreign PTA programs are not CAPTE accredited, and so the student must provide South Dakota with proof that they are substantially equal to a CAPTE accredited program. This process can take some time, so the student should consult with the Board well in advance of applying for a license in order to ensure that he or she has all needed information.
The NPTE is a national examination that is designed to ensure that all PTAs have achieved a minimum level of competency in their field. Although South Dakota does permit an individual who has failed the NPTE to retake the examination, being forced to retake the test will result in substantial licensure delays. For this reason, a candidate should only take the NPTE when he or she is fully prepared to pass the exam.
Ultimately, becoming a PTA in South Dakota is an excellent choice for those individuals who are seeking a long-term and secure career. In addition to the professional benefits to becoming a licensed PTA, practitioners will enjoy a high degree of respect from their fellow professionals and patients alike. Finally, due to the growing importance of physical therapy in the healthcare sector, it is almost certain that the professional opportunities available to a licensed PTA will continue to improve in the future.
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