Physical therapist assistants work under the supervision of a leading physical therapist who is responsible for diagnosing and treating a client’s condition. In this scenario, the physical therapist works primarily from an administrative position while the physical therapist assistant directly assists patients, helping them prepare for the diagnosis and walking them through the rehabilitation plan. After each treatment, the physical therapist assistant reports to the physical therapist on a patient’s progress.
While physical therapists require professional postgraduate degrees, assistants need an associate’s degree from a physical therapy program. These programs often consist of a mix of hands-on clinical experience with academic coursework. The coursework is often not as extensive as that of a physical therapist’s, which would include extensive knowledge of several fields such as biology, physiology, anatomy, and chemistry. After graduating from a program, aspiring physical therapist assistants must pass the National Physical Therapy Exam. Depending on the state they plan to work in, additional testing administered by the state may be required as well.
Physical therapist assistants can work with patients of all ages and health conditions in many settings. Such settings include hospitals, outpatient clinics, homes, schools, research centers, and fitness centers. On a typical day, the leading physical therapist will determine how closely an assistant will work with a particular patient. A physical therapist may want to take an active role for some patients due to the complexity or circumstances surrounding the patient. A physical therapist assistant may utilize – but is not restricted to – treatments such as traction, therapeutic exercise, massage, electrotherapy, massage, and motor learning. Prevention is the best medicine, which means one of the most important duties of a physical therapist assistant is teaching the patient how to avoid further injury.
Much like with physical therapists, the job prospects for assistants look positive for the upcoming years. Job growth is expected to increase by 40% until 2024 due to longer lifespans and higher awareness of the importance of physical therapy in the recovery process. If you are a physical therapist assistant, job opportunities are available around the country; the next step is finding them. Ardor Health Solutions makes it easy for healthcare workers like physical therapist assistants find their next dream job. View our job listing today or speak with a representative by calling 855-GO-ARDOR.