Physical Therapist Assistant Job Description
Physical therapist assistants help physical therapists work with patients who are recovering from illnesses or injuries that have resulted in a loss of physical movement or chronic pain. Others might suffer from conditions that impede them physical, including cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s disease. Assistants work under the direction of therapists, implementing treatment plans and working directly with patients in learning exercises that will help increase mobility, regain strength, manage pain or give them the skills to accomplish everyday tasks.
Work Environment for Physical Therapist Assistants
Physical therapist assistants work primarily in hospitals and physical therapist clinics. Unlike physical therapist aides, assistants actually work directly with patients, implementing the therapeutic treatment plans designed by physical therapists. This can include helping patients with exercise such as stretching, walking or water exercise.
While job descriptions can vary depending on the job, typically duties for a physical therapist assistant could include:
• Observing patients before, during and after therapy and reporting their status to physical therapists.
• Aide patients during specific exercises.
• Use physical therapy techniques such as massage and stretching to help patients regain physical strength or manage pain.
• Teach patients the proper use of exercise equipment and other specialty equipment, such as walkers and wheelchairs.
• Use medical equipment such as electrical stimulation, mechanical traction and ultrasound.
Physical Therapist Assistants Earnings and Employment Outlook
As the field of physical therapy expands over this decade, the number of physical therapist assistnats is also projected to grow. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of physical therapist assistants to increase 46% by 2020, adding almost 31.000 new jobs. An aging population will lead the large growth in the area of physical therapy, as more patients will require therapy to recover from strokes or cardiovascular condition, for example.
The median annual salary for a physical therapist assistant was $49,690 in 2010, according to the BLS.
How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant
A 2-year associates degree in physical therapy is what most employers will require on the resumes of job candidates for the position of physical therapist assistant. When choosing a program, it is recommended that you verify that it is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.
Most physical therapy assistant degree programs are divided into coursework and clinical experience. Coursework typically includes classes in anatomy, physiology and psychology. On the clinical side, students will learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other first-aid skills, as well as gaining experience working in clincis under the supervision of physical therapists.
Most states require physical therapist assistants to graduate from an accredited physical therapist program and pass the National Physical Therapy Exam. Some states have their own exams and also require physical therapist assistants to take continuing education courses.
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