Physical therapy assistance assist physical therapists with daily activities such as provide patients with therapeutic exercise, therapeutic massage of vary kinds, observe patients and collect data based on your observations. Other activities would include fitting and adjusting specialized supportive devices such as braces and crutches.
Generally speaking, you would assist occupational therapists, doctors, surgeons and other professional rehabilitate patients who have been involved in accidents resulting from sports injuries, motor vehicle accidents and others as well as patients who have lost motor skills through head injury, strokes and the like. This field would be of interest to people who interested in pursuing a medical career and enjoy working with people and are practically minded. The basic aim of the therapy is to improve the quality of the patients life by assisting with the improvement of basic functions whether really practical ones such as mobility or more complex areas that involve memory loss, brain damage and other neurological problems.
Courses You Will Need To Become A Physical Therapy Assistant
You will need an associate degree obtainable through one of the hundreds of courses available in the field. It is most probably a good idea to work as a volunteer with a professional before embarking on a physical therapy assistant training program to establish if this is indeed the type of work that will suit your character. The course itself will vary from school to school but should cover the basics of medical science, the theory and practice of physical therapy as well as lots of hands on type practical training. Another thing to consider when becoming a PTA is whether you want to specialize or not. This is also something one can do as you progress and develop within the field. Specific PTA related subjects might include physiology, anatomy, sports performance and human development. One would also cover courses such as neurological development, pathology, therapeutic exercise and others.
Physical Therapy Assistant Work And Salary Prospects
PTA’s are in demand and will generally find a placement relatively easily with the right qualifications and registration. In this field there are no corporate ladders to climb, you are what you are but the physical therapy assistant salary scale will increase as experience is gained. Salaries vary from state to state and also depend on whether you work in the private or government sectors. Salaries above forty thousand dollars per annum are not uncommon and top salaries advertised are as high as ninety thousand USD per annum. The most common areas where work can be found are hospitals, home health care industries and private health care professionals.
Do PTA’s Need To Be Licensed?
Although many sates do regulate the PTA profession one does not need to be registered in order to work. However those companies and professionals who would require the services are more likely to employ a registered assistant. There are a number of reasons for this but most importantly they would want to protect themselves and their companies from possible legal implications and malpractice law suits. On completion of a two year degree candidates can write an exam, the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Courses that are accredited can be viewed on the website. Federation of State Boards Physical Therapy (www.fsbpt.org).
The requirements differ from to state to state and as such it is advisable to research what your needs are and what the minimum expectations are in your area.
Areas of Specialization with Physical Therapy Assistant Training
Physical Therapy Assistant – Areas Of Practice
As mentioned previously PTA’s assist physical therapists with the rehabilitation of patients and will work in places such as hospitals, sports facilities, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, extended care facilities, education centers, research facilities, schools, hospices, occupational environments, the military and many others. Common aids that PTA’s will work with would be things like artificial limbs, wheelchairs, various braces, crutches and canes. Very often specialized and purpose built devices will be custom made for the patient.
List of Typical PTA duties:
- Measuring the motor function of a particular patient
- Gauging balance and co-ordination
- Recording muscle strength and performance
- Finding out the range of motor function with a particular patient
- Create treatment plans
- Implement the treatment plan
- Monitor treatment plans
- Assessing to what degree a patient requires treatment and what can be done by the patient on his own.
- Writing progress reports for therapists and physicians.
A large portion of a physical assistants work revolves around documentation and note taking and as such those embarking on this career need to be focused and organised and be able to work within very structured parameters. You also need strong interpersonal skills and have the ability to communicate well with people.
An average work week for a physical therapy assistant will be in the order of forty hours but in extreme situations could be more. On the whole the work is interesting and varied and there is always a new challenge to look forward to.
Where And What To Study?
When deciding on which college or course to attend there are a number of factors that the individual needs to take into consideration.
- LOCATION: Where you live will affect your ability to attend classes and also affect the cost of studying. Studying closer to home will cost far less than studying thousands of mile away.
- FINANCIAL COSTS: This is a basic consideration and will generally speaking affect the quality of the physical therapy assistant degree course you attend. It is also valuable to find out what aids are available and if certain companies or hospitals are offering scholarships.
- FLEXIBILITY: For many students it is important that they are able to work while studying and to this end may need a course that offers some degree of flexibility in terms of course times.
- COURSES AND CURRICULUM: Not all schools offer the same courses and it is obviously important that you cover all areas in the field that you believe to be of value to your future as a PTA.
- RECOGNISED COURSES: It is important that you enrol with a school that is recognized by the regulatory bodies and that you will be eligible for certification in your preferred state of employment.
The courses are offered as part time and also as distant learning subjects but as a rule a full time physical therapy assistant training program in this field will be more useful and the graduate more employable. The following are common physical therapy assistant programs that students participate in:
Associate of Science in Physical Therapy Assistance:
This is a good all round platform course that usually requires about two years of study and covers all the general areas of interest in the field such as general academics and physical therapy. Subjects such as pain management, working with disease recovery, motor skills, mobility, accident recovery and neurological basics and the use of mobility and other physical equipment are covered.
Associate of Applied Science in Applied Health:
This course also offers a strong foundation on general health and physical assistant subjects and can also take about two years to complete.
Associate of Science in Occupational Assistant Therapy:
To enrol in this course the student will need to have completed a basic course in the applied field and is a popular choice for those ensuing a career as a physical assistant therapist.
Graduate Certificate in Paediatric Care:
This is course that would be undertaken by a person already qualified as a physical therapists assistant who wants to specialize in this particular area of expertise. In America there are over two hundred and fifty courses available and many specialist courses to compliment them with and can be studied at university and colleges throughout the country.
There are numerous specialist courses available and with time and experience the individual has the opportunity to expand their areas of expertise and to specialize.
With over two hundred thousand patients seeking assistance from physical therapists on a daily basis across the United States of America you can be assured of a career filled with promise and growth prospects. This not a career choice for everyone and requires a high degree of commitment and interest to the care of others. It is however a well-paid and rewarding career for those dedicated to it. Besides growth and relatively good earning potential the individual is able to pursue specific areas of interest and can continually grow and learn new and specialized forms of treatment. This career also allows the graduate the opportunity to study and work abroad with job openings all over the world. Place like The United Arab Emirates for example are often advertising for these positions with the promise of extremely good salaries and attractive packages.
In conclusion whether you choose physical therapy assistant training or physical therapy aide training, it is an attractive career prospect which allows for individuality in terms of personal areas of interest and also the prospects for growth and further study. A natural follow on from an assistant would be to become a fully qualified physical therapist with large numbers of graduates doing just that every year.