Physical Therapist Assistant Jobs

Physical therapist assistant jobs suit those who love working with people on a day-to-day basis, helping them overcome disability, recover from surgery or illness, or regain their strength and coordination after an injury or some other trauma. A PTA works with a very wide range of patients, and is an instructor as well as treatment provider.

Where Do Physical Therapist Assistants Work?

Physical therapist assistant jobs are found in many different work settings, although the majority are found in outpatient facilities in private practice. Recent surveys conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that of the 65,000+ PTAs in employment in 2010, nearly 30,000 were to be found working in health practitioners’ offices — and only around 10% of these were physicians’ practices. The rest were made up of other health practitioners such as audiologists, optometrists, chiropractors, speech therapists and many other specialist providers.

Of course, many PTAs also work in hospitals, from acute care facilities to rehab clinics and other specialty in-patient hospitals. There is also considerable demand from nursing homes, home health care services, schools, sports facilities, and many different types of industry and private business. It just goes to show how versatile the skills of physical therapist assistants can be, and the range of job prospects that are open to them. And these opportunities are on the rise: the BLS predicts a 35% growth in employment for PT assistants and aides in the decade between 2008 and 2018.

Training for Physical Therapist Assistant Jobs

Physical Therapist Assistant Jobs

Because of the specific technical knowledge and advanced professional skills required, PTAs are trained to Associate’s degree level. Most programs take about two years to complete, and integrate foundation courses in general education subjects with core classes in physical therapy topics. Accredited programs incorporate theoretical instruction with laboratory classes and clinical experiences, to give students understanding and practice of the issues and competencies required for professional practice. And in most states, before you can start physical therapist assistant jobs, you need to be licensed or certified by the jurisdiction in your region. This normally requires candidates to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam for PTAs, as well as fulfilling other local criteria.

The professional knowledge required for physical therapy assisting falls into a number of areas. These include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Physical Therapy Principles and Foundational Sciences — this topic will include knowledge of anatomy and physiology, diseases and their management, and the effects of activity and exercise on the body.
  • Collection of Data — PTAs use various methods to test and measure a patient’s responses. Tests include the cardiac, pulmonary, and vascular systems as well as the musculoskeletal system, the nervous system, the skin, and other body systems.
  • Interventions — the types of intervention used, the way the body systems respond, potential complications, and the effect that interventions in one system may have on another will stop
  • Equipment and Devices — there are many different types employed for different ages of patient, from assistive and adaptive devices to prosthetics, orthotics and others.
  • Therapeutic Modalities — the physical agents, mechanical modalities, and different types of electric therapy, and the principles governing their use.
  • Patient Safety and Protection, and Professional Roles of the PTA

The Importance of Communication in Physical Therapist Assistant Jobs

A great deal of what PTAs do relies on effective communication skills. They work under the direction of the licensed physical therapist to help deliver treatment, and need to be able to feedback details about a patient’s status and progress to the supervising PT. They also need to communicate effectively with the patients themselves, showing empathy and sensitivity and instructing them effectively in exercise routines, using equipment, and other regimens. They need good teamwork skills, and part of their job may include supervising others.

Finding Work As a Physical Therapy Assistant

There are several specialist medical staffing agencies recruiting personnel in the field of physical therapy. Vacancies are also advertised in the local press and on job boards. These days, recruitment for positions in health care often starts with an online search, and there are many services which allow professionals to post resumes and filter openings for physical therapist assistant jobs by specific keywords, localities and other factors.

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