Find out if a career in physical therapy is right for you
If you are looking for a career that has a combination of desk work and physical activity while helping others, a career as a physical therapist assistant might be the right fit for you.
Due to the healthcare needs of our aging populations, the employment opportunity for physical therapist assistants is projected to increase by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026.
Learn more about this growing and rewarding career.
What is a Physical Therapist Assistant?
Physical therapist assistants (PTA) work under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist. A physical therapist assistant helps with implementing the rehabilitation exercises and therapies associated with a patient recovering from an injury or disability.
The Duties of a Physical Therapist Assistant
On a typical day, a PTA will see new and repeat patients. They provide therapy to patients who have movement difficulties due to an injury or disease. A main duty of a PTA is preparing for the upcoming therapy session by organizing the treatment locations based on that patient’s needs. This includes cleaning the therapy stations and setting up any needed or necessary equipment for that appointment.
As the patient is working on the workouts and exercises, the PTA takes note of the patient’s progress and reports all information to the physical therapist. It is a PTA’s responsibility to provide assistance if a patient needs help moving from one treatment station to another.
Additionally, PTAs do a variety of important clerical tasks. These include ordering supplies, scheduling treatment sessions and filling out insurance forms.
Who Will You be Helping?
Anyone who has a functional limitation, meaning they are unable to do tasks they used to do, may benefit from physical therapy services. PTAs work with individuals of all ages. Some conditions patients are seen for include:
- Back injuries or pain
- Balance issues
- Head or brain injuries
Treatments and Exercises
Even though the physical therapists will ultimately make the decision on the patient’s treatment plan and evaluate the patient’s progress, PTAs play a key role in the patient’s recovery process. They provide patients with specific therapies and exercises to improve mobility and relieve pain. They also provide patients with different massages, such as the use of electrotherapy in the form of ultrasounds and electrical stimulation. These services are used to prevent or limit permanent physical disability and promote overall fitness and health.
PTAs train patients for activities like walking with crutches, canes or walkers. Treatments and exercises will vary depending on the patient and the rehabilitation services they require.
Work Environment PTAs are utilized in a variety of work environments. Approximately 72% of physical therapist assistants work in hospitals or privately-owned physical therapy practices. PTAs can also work in offices, clinic rehabilitation centers or sports facilities.
A career as a physical therapist assistant is rewarding and can be a great stepping stone for a career as a physical therapist while you complete the additional years of school and training required.