Physical therapists have such an important role to play in many people’s lives, and whilst this is a job of much responsibility, they could not do it without the very demanding, supporting role of physical therapy assistants. A physical therapy assistant helps the physical therapist in a number of ways, including undertaking ultrasound scans, certain methods of massage, manipulation and implementing treatments plans. The aim of physical therapy is to help a patient who has been injured or who has impaired health in some way, back to full mobility. Very often this can be after accidents, illness or strokes. The weakened muscles need to be built up again in order for a patient to use them effectively.
Physical therapy sees a large range of different complaints and an assessment of patient ability has to be made in each case, and then a program of rehabilitation is worked out. The physical therapy assistant helps implement this program of patient care.
Qualities of a Physical Therapist Assistant
As physical therapy is mainly a ‘hands on’ job, it is very demanding and requires a good level of physical strength together with ingenuity. Some patients will go to great lengths to avoid undertaking certain exercises and so it is up to the physical therapist assistant to encourage, comfort and maneuver a patient for their own good. Clearly, good ‘people skills’ are required too, as there is constant interaction with a wide variety of personalities. Being able to interact in a good-natured way is essential, as some patients may be difficult to manage or may be uncooperative. This is why it is so essential to have excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to gain rapport with anyone within a short space of time. The quicker you are able to build a trusting relationship with a patient, the quicker they will respond to your care, advice and guidance. Ultimately, this means their treatment can be completed quicker too.
Physical therapy assistants will always perform tasks under the direct supervision of a physical therapist, but there is some amount of autonomy available. This may suit many people who do not like a high level of responsibility but who still want to work in a compassionate field of nursing. The physical therapist will devise the treatment plan, and the physical therapy assistant may have an input in this, particularly if it is a specialist area of interest or extra experience. The physical therapy assistant is then left to implement the treatment plan with the patient.
How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant
Being a physical therapy assistant is a responsible job, and as such a license to practice is required. You will also need to have an associate degree at the very least. Many people choose to start as a physical therapy aide and they take higher education to get the relevant qualifications they need. There are a variety of ways to obtain the necessary qualifications, and these include accredited programs, online programs and university attendance.
Most associate degree programs take 2 years to complete and do not only include nursing elements but also cover elements such as biology, anatomy, psychology and clinical experience. Following completion of the program it is necessary to become licensed before you can practise. Therefore, it is necessary to take a further exam before you can be employed as a physical therapy assistant. In addition, it is also necessary to ensure you continue to be aware of up to date procedures and policies in medical health. The license needs to be current and so continuing educational credits are required.
Depending on your circumstances will depend on the route you wish to take. The ability to progress in career advancement in physical therapy is very good and many choose to become physical therapists, which of course, has a higher salary.
One of the great advantages of a job in physical therapy is the flexibility it has. Many people in this field work on a part-time basis, through choice. It is easy to see, therefore, why it suits so many working mums, as it gives them time to dedicate to patients and offers a rewarding career without compromising family life. The full time salary of around $45,000 is a very good return for a pro-rate part time therapist assistant. Additionally, some people may have two part time jobs and work in very different areas of physical therapy.