Become a Physical Therapy Assistant. Start Your Career at a Great School

As demand for physical therapy rises, there is booming demand for well-trained professionals. Physical Therapy Assistants provide valuable support to physical therapists and ensure patients receive the most complete care.

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What Does a Physical Therapist Assistant Do?

Physical therapist assistants, or PTAs for short, have important duties and responsibilities. PTAs work directly with patients who are receiving therapy to overcome an injury or to recover from surgery, to improve mobility and manage pain. They make a direct impact on people who need help. But what exactly do they do? Find out what the daily responsibilities of PTAs are before you jump into this great healthcare career.

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PTAs Implement Physical Therapy

The main duty of a PTA is to put into action the therapy planned for patients by a physical therapist. PTAs are not allowed to plan treatment, but they do implement it. This means they work hands-on with patients every day, guiding them through exercises, teaching them the right form, helping them use assistive devices, and even providing massage and stretching therapies.

Sometimes the treatment plan includes technology. A PTA may need to work with a patient who wears prosthetics, for instance, helping that individual learn how to move comfortably with it. Another technology a PTA may use to help patients include ultrasound therapy, which can improve blood flow and minimize swelling.

The PTA Observes and Records Patient Progress

Another very important responsibility a PTA has is to observe patients. They don’t simply go through the treatment plan. While doing the treatment, they take note of how a patient is progressing or not. They observe symptoms and changes in mobility or pain. They record these observations in official forms and report them back to the physical therapist.

PTAs Educate

While working with patients, PTAs have to do several things. They guide patients through exercises and implement treatment, observe patient progress and provide education. They inform patients of the planned treatment, how to do movements and exercises correctly and what to do at home. They educate patients and their families to help them understand how the treatment plan will help.

PTAs Work with Physical Therapists

The PTA is not allowed to plan treatment for patients, but this doesn’t mean they simply work under physical therapists and take orders. Most PTs respect the knowledge and experience of their PTAs and work with them when developing treatment. They usually involve the PTA in making decisions about how to alter treatment plans and when deciding on the next steps for a patient.

A PTA May Work with Patients in Their Homes

Most PTAs are hired to work in physical therapy offices, surgery centers and hospitals. But, some may be hired by home healthcare services. These companies offer physical therapy to patients in their own homes. In these positions, PTAs are responsible for going to the patient to work in their residence and provide treatment, usually under indirect guidance from a physical therapist.

PTAs Do Physical Work

It’s important to understand that most of the actual, day-to-day work that PTAs do is physical. In this career, you can expect to be on your feet nearly all day. You will have to manipulate patients and assistive devices; you may have to lift heavy objects; and you may be setting up equipment and technology. The duties can be physically demanding, so you need to be in good shape.

Physical therapist assisting is a rewarding career. It isn’t always easy, but it allows you to work directly with patients and to make a real difference in their lives. You get to be a part of and to see the progress people make as they get better. There are few careers that can provide a greater reward than that.