A physical therapy assistant helps the physical therapist in the goal of treating patients who suffer from injury or physical disability. Treatment is designed to improve patients' mobility or relieve pain. These assistants may apply heat or ice therapy to patients, teach them how to use crutches, or show them how to perform exercises and stretches that will improve range of motion and flexibility.
They may even perform massages, employ electrical stimulation, or perform ultrasounds on patients. Working as a physical therapy assistant may also involve answering phones, ordering supplies, and filling out insurance paperwork. All work performed by the assistant is supervised by a licensed physical therapist.
If a person wishes to become a physical therapy assistant, he or she must possess a high school diploma. After earning a high school diploma, most states require that physical therapist assistants complete an accredited physical therapy program. Most programs last about two years, and graduates earn an associate degree upon completion of their studies.
Students enrolled in a physical therapy assistant program study a variety of courses, including psychology, algebra, anatomy and physiology, biology, and chemistry. They must become certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid. In addition to these requirements, they must gain hands-on experience in the field. After completing the program, most states require that future physical therapy assistants pass an examination in order to become licensed in this particular health career.
A physical therapist assistant works with people of all ages. Stroke victims, injured athletes, children with cerebral palsy, and patients who have recently undergone surgery are just a small sample of people that require physical therapy services. Those who chose to become physical therapist assistants will need to work well with the public, demonstrating patience and kindness.
A physical therapist assistant must demonstrate a sincere desire to help others and have the ability to set patients at ease. Since most patients come to a physical therapist after experiencing an injury or undergoing surgery, they may be suffering from a great deal of pain and emotional distress. The assistant must also be prepared to work with a licensed physical therapist and other health care employees, as part of a team.
Nursing homes, home health care agencies, skill nursing facilities, and physical therapy offices all require the special skills of a physical therapist assistant. Assistants may also work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and school districts. Anyone who chooses to work in this field must be prepared to work outside of normal business hours, since many medical facilities are open evenings and weekends.