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What Does a Physical Therapy Assistant Do?

A physical therapist assistant may specialize in helping children with disabilities.
Physical therapy assistants may train family members to help their loved one remain mobile.
Physical therapy assistants supervise patients as they perform therapeutic exercises.
A physical therapy assistant might help people adjust to using a wheelchair.
A physical therapy assistant may teach patients how to use crutches.
A physical therapy assistant must be certified in CPR.
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  • Written By: K T Solis
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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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.

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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.

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myharley
Post 4

@LisaLou-- My daughter is a physical therapy assistant, and she makes around $43,000 a year. This really isn't a bad wage for completing a 2 year degree.

She didn't go into this field because she was interested in making a lot of money. She really wanted to help people and make a difference in their lives.

She has found a physical therapy assistant career to be both challenging and rewarding, and she works very hard to help people accomplish their goals. It isn't always an easy job, and not all of her stories are success stories, but she really enjoys the challenge.

LisaLou
Post 3

What is the average physical therapy assistant salary? I have always been interested in being a physical therapist, but am looking for a program I can complete in two years.

I know that salaries in the medical field vary quite a bit, but would think that a physical therapy assistant could make a decent wage.

bagley79
Post 2

I had to go to physical therapy after knee surgery, and I worked closely with both the physical therapist and the assistant.

The assistant worked with my on my exercises and kept track of my progress. I think a successful physical therapy assistant needs to have a balance of being patient, yet staying firm.

Going through physical therapy can be very painful, and they know just how much you need to push yourself without causing harm. It is also easy to quit doing your exercises, and my physical therapy assistant was a great motivator for me.

andee
Post 1

I am a licensed physical therapy assistant and graduated from a 2 year degree program. I always knew I wanted to work in the medical field, and I find this job to be very rewarding.

While I was obtaining my physical therapy assistant degree I had the opportunity to work part time at a rehab center. This was a good experience for me while I was in school, since it gave me practical application of what I was learning.

I am hoping to continue on with my education to become a physical therapist. I know that I enjoy this type of work enjoy helping people get back to a normal way of life.

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