A physical therapy assistant plays a vital role in the smooth running of a physical therapist's practice. Such assistants perform numerous tasks and help the therapist in a variety of ways. In addition, they contribute greatly to the comfort of each patient.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities in this field are expected to grow significantly until 2018.
Physical Therapy Assistant – An Overview
A physical therapy assistant works under the direct supervision of a licensed physical therapist. As previously mentioned, he or she may be called upon to complete a wide array of duties. These may include teaching patients how to perform exercises, applying hot and cold packs to patients, and operating the therapeutic equipment such as a TENS machine. They may also be asked to perform massage treatments, ultrasounds or a range of motion tests.
The assistant is almost always called upon to chart the progress of various patients, as well as confirm appointments or complete other clerical duties. Additionally, that must frequently multitask to cover a broad range of administrative and clinical duties.
The amount of time required in order for one to become a physical therapy assistant is typically two years. The individual must graduate from high school and enroll in an associate program in physical therapy assistance at a university or college. In certain states, such training can be obtained at a technical or voluntary school; however, the school must be accredited . The curriculum is usually divided equally between classroom lectures and clinical experience.
The number of mandatory clinical hours will vary depending upon the school in which one is enrolled in, as well as the area of the country in which he or she lives. However, the minimum national requirement of clinical experience is at least one semester. At most schools, two semesters are devoted to clinical experience.
After successful completion of a program, one must then take the national examination in order to become licensed and certified. When this has been completed, the graduate is then qualified to seek employment at the facility of his or her choice.
One should also be aware of the fact that there are a certain number of additional requirements necessary for those who wish to become physical therapy assistants. For example, a substantial amount of upper body strength is sometimes necessary when one is assisting a patient, as someone working in this profession may also be required to lift, kneel, or stand for a prolonged period of time during the course of an average workday .
One may also be required to work a non-traditional schedule that involves weekends, evenings, or very early mornings. This is because certain individuals must schedule their physical therapy sessions around their work schedule, and therefore must be accommodated during non-business hours. However, such details will vary significantly depending on the facility at which one is employed.
It is also important to understand that an assistant is not limited to working for a private practice, but may also decide to work in fitness centers, schools, nursing homes or rehabilitation facilities.
Regardless of the institution where one obtains employment, those who choose to become a physical therapy assistant can expect a long and rewarding career.