Physical Therapist Assistant

What Does a Physical Therapist Assistant Do?
Physical therapy is the rehabilitation of patients who have suffered from injury, disease, or a chronic condition such as back pain. Physical therapist assistants work with physical therapists to aid patients in regaining their independence in activities such as walking and also to help relieve the pain that some patients may feel. They carry out the treatment plans prescribed by the physical therapists, and often also work under the guidance and supervision of the head physical therapist. Physical therapist assistants perform various duties depending on the patientís case. They may help patients exercise, train patients to walk again after an injury, instruct patients on how to use an assistive device such as a wheelchair or crutch, and provide therapeutic pain relief through massages. Physical therapist assistants are responsible for noting whether a treatment plan is working or not and taking detailed notes of the patientís reactions to treatment and any progress or lack of progress being made.

What Is the Employment and Salary Outlook for a Physical Therapist Assistant?
A large portion of the population is beginning to reach its elder years, increasing the need for physical therapist assistants to help physical therapists deal with the inevitable increase in elderly patients. The elderly are more susceptible to injury as well as chronic conditions like arthritis due to the frailty of their health and bodies. For this reason, they are more likely to require physical therapy as they age. The practice will therefore experience great growth to match the demand. Employment opportunities for physical therapist assistants are expected to increase 33 percent through 2018, a much faster growth than the national average of job growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Advancements in medical technology has also allowed for the successful recovery of trauma victims and those born with debilitating birth defects, further increasing the importance and prosperity of the physical therapy field. Physical therapist assistants earn an average salary of $46,140, according to the most current data available from the Bureau.

How Can I Become a Physical Therapist Assistant?
Aspiring physical therapist assistants must first earn an associate degree from an accredited physical therapy assistance program. An associate physical therapy assistance program typically takes about two years to complete, during which time students take courses in anatomy, psychology, and other classes designed to lay the foundation for a successful career in physical therapy assistance. Many physical therapy assistance programs require students to complete a set number of hours in the field as well. Students gain certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and work alongside professionals in health care facilities such as hospitals and private practices. These skills allow the students to gain valuable hands-on experience before graduating. After completing the program, most aspiring physical therapist assistants will need to seek licensure as it is a requirement to practice in most states. To gain licensure, program graduates will have to successfully complete the National Physical Therapy Exam, and some states also have state examinations as well. After completing these examinations, the graduate will be registered as an official physical therapy assistant.