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What Does a Physical Therapist Assistant Do?
The role of physical therapist assistant (PTA) is to aid physical therapists in the care and treatment of patients. Individuals working as physical therapist assistants will work to provide clerical and physical aid to qualified physical therapists under their direct supervision, the assistant will help exercise, stimulate, instruct, massage and assist patients, and are also responsible for recording and reporting the results of treatments to the physical therapist. PTAs also help in the daily operations of a practice, provide standard care, as well as educate patients in regiments and exercises.
Most states require a physical therapist assistant to have a minimum of an associate's degree through a nationally accredited program in order to work in a professional setting. Nationally accredited programs typically last 2 years and provide students with a variety of courses and skills necessary to perform their functions and tasks ably. Students of such a program will be exposed to various sciences that related to the human body, and be educated in the types of ailments that may affect individuals in recovery. Programs contain both academic and clinical coursework in order to develop one's practical experience and allow them to apply classroom knowledge to real world settings.
Academic coursework will include
Clinical settings allow students to understand how treatments are applied and under what conditions. Exposure to individuals and situations will allow students to develop proper bedside manner, learn to develop patient confidence, and to apply treatments and offer assistance as outlined by one's instructor or physical therapist. The amount of clinical work will depend on the program of study.
Clinical coursework will include:
- Certifications in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
- Experience in Treatment Centers
- First Aid
Physical therapist assistants can find work in outpatient clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, fitness centers, and other locations that offer physical therapy. Most patients will either be elderly or in recovery from accident or surgery. The role of a physical therapist assistant is to provide service to patients as guided by a physical therapist, often conducting routine work under the guidance or supervision of a physical therapist. The various work environments will all require a physical therapist for an assistant to work under, and the amount of responsibilities, supervised and unsupervised, are generally dictated by the state.
Job Growth, Salary and Related Fields
Job growth for physical therapist assistants is expected nearly double over the next decade as the demand for physical therapy increases due to an aging population. The need for physical therapists due to the various conditions associated with ageing will result in the need for more assistants in order to reduce treatments costs, as once a plan for treatment has been put together by the therapist an assistant may provide a majority of the treatment.
The Average wage of a physical therapist assistant is approximately $46,000 per year, with $28,000 being the average starting wage. Experienced assistants may earn more over time, though overall physical therapist assistant is a limited growth field, and it is important to note that almost no classes overlap with those of a physical therapy program which makes advancement into physical therapy difficult as.
For more information, check out our Physical Therapy Career Guide on our blog.