The main task of a Physical Therapy Assistant or Aide is to help the Physical Therapist with patient treatment. Physical therapy patients will need mobility treatment, exercises, therapies, learning to use equipment or prosthesis, and other treatments. A physical therapy assistant will also help with setting up equipment and other tasks necessary to prepare patients for their treatment. Depending on the practice, they will assist patients walking, give them instructions, monitor them, and provide many types of therapies, including ultrasound, electrical stimulation, massage, and many other treatments.
A physical therapy aide cannot perform the same tasks that assistants do because they do not have a license. They will help preparing patients, transporting them to an area, and preparing and cleaning up treatment areas, but under direct supervision of a physical therapist or a physical therapy assistant. Aides also perform some clerical tasks, ordering of supplies … depending on the type of practice or job setting.
In addition, this career demands a lot of physical strength and flexibility as assistants and aides need to lift patients, as a way of helping during the many facets of treatment. The job is physically demanding and people with a bad back might not be able to perform some duties. A lot of the work is done standing and walking around with patients.
Physical therapy assistants have an associate degree and are licensed in most states. Aides go through job training to learn the skills of the job.
Physical Therapy Assisting Schools By State
Most job settings are in clinics and hospital settings, nursing homes, care centers, rehab centers, home health care, but also in private practices. The type of employment varies depending on the hours of the practice. An assistant/aide may work full-time or part-time. Most private practices have weekends and evening hours. This is to accommodate the needs of the patients.
Education and Training
In most states, physical therapy assistants are required to be licensed and have at least an associate degree. For physical therapy aides is different, as they will learn the skills on job training and they will be supervised by the physical therapist or by the physical therapy assistant. Aides will need a high school diploma as well.
Physical therapy education programs have to be accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association’s Commission. These programs will train the candidate in theory and practice. Courses will include anatomy, physiology, psychology, and other basic courses, such as English and Algebra. Hands on training is important as well as the learning of CPR and other first aide techniques. Depending on the state, a physical therapy assistant may need a license, a certification, and/or to be registered. Assistants may also need to pass a National Physical Therapy Exam or a State exam, depending on the state in which they will work.
Many aides will seek education to become assistants in this field. Many assistants will work in areas in administration, instead of clinical work. They can have a teaching career, work as director for larger practices, or be in charge of other physical therapy staff, as well as manage programs.
Assistants and Aides must be able to have organizational skills, be able to work in a team, and have good communication skills, as well as social skills, to be able to deal with people. They also must be caring and have a positive attitude on the job.
Many assistants will gain wide knowledge in certain areas with long-term employment. These areas can include learning skills in cardiopulmonary PT, musculoskeletal, pediatric, integumentary, and geriatric skills.
Salary will vary, depending on the type of employment or job setting; also, of education, knowledge, and experience. For physical therapy assistants, salary can range from the high $20’s to the low $60’s. For physical therapy aides, salary ranges from the low $17’s to the low $30’s.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
The more education and skills a physical therapy assistant obtains, the higher the opportunity for better-paid positions in this industry. Managerial and administrative positions will pay more, according to experience.
The job outlook and opportunities for this career field is good. It is expected that the demand will continue to grow. Candidates with a degree will have the best opportunities and prospects. For aides, it may be more challenging as they will face much competition with more educated candidates. It is expected that the geriatric field will increase in opportunities, as many baby boomers start to retire and age. In addition, more opportunities of employment will appear in rural areas, as most candidates tend to gravitate toward big cities that offer a higher pay.*
Employment in this area is expected to continue fast grow, more than the average job growth. This is good news for candidates looking into training on this field. However, candidates should put an emphasis in getting the best education they can get to increase knowledge, and have years of practice under their belt, to compete with other applicants better. Candidates who have the experience as aides, and top it with a good education will have favorable outlooks.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/