Physical Therapist Assistant or Aide

Pros


  • This type of work helps people improve their mobility, lessens disability and relieves them from pain.
  • The duties that are involved are very good for those who have an interest in health and fitness.
  • Over the long term, there are expected to be very good job opportunities for those who are interested in this field.

Cons

  • The work is fast paced, and you will need to be on your feet quite a bit while you are working with patients.
  • In order to meet with patients, it is common for those in this field to have to work nights and weekends.
  • You must exercise patience and be able to convey a positive attitude to patients so that they can achieve results.

Overview

Physical therapist assistants and aides work with physical therapists to help patients that have been injured or have lost mobility and flexibility due to illness. Often time these patients are in pain and have become disabled. This can be because of arthritis, heart disease, stroke, lower back pain or other debilitating health issue. Instead of using drugs or having invasive surgery, physical therapy can often be used to help patients recover from serious health problems.

Quite often physical therapist assistants and aides will be asked to help patients learn how to use medical equipment to assist them such as crutches. They will set up equipment for patients to use, administer electrical stimulation, and teach proper exercise techniques. Because physical therapy is an ongoing, usually long term process, physical therapist assistants and aides need to convey patience and perseverance to patients in order to see results. In order to record results, they will also take accurate notes on each session to measure improvements.

Often times physical therapist assistants and aides are required to take care of administrative tasks that need to be done in a typical medical clinic setting such as answering the phone, filling out billing forms and organizing medical records so that they can easily be retrieved later. While most physical therapy assistants and aides work in private clinics, they can also be found working in hospitals, long-term care facilities and community health agencies.

Education

There are differences between a physical therapist assistant and an aide, with the distinguishing factor being training. While a physical therapist aide usually only has a high school diploma, an assistant usually has obtained an associate’s degree from a community college. While aides do not have to be licensed, a physical therapy assistant must pass a certifying examination once they have completed their coursework and are preparing to seek employment. Assistants must also take continuing education courses in order to stay licensed.

Job Prospects

There is expected to be very high growth levels for this occupation. Those who have been trained to become physical therapist assistants will have the best job prospects as the requirements for an aide to obtain employment is much lower and there are a larger pool of applicants. Nevertheless, physical therapy clinics are looking to lower costs for their services and one solution to that problem is to employ more physical therapy assistants and aides in order to perform some of the work that is needed to be done.

Advancement Opportunities

There are some opportunities for advancement in this field. Those who are physical therapy aides can combine work experience and continuing education into becoming a physical therapy assistant. Those who are already assistants can also gain more training and specialize in a variety of concentrations that can include geriatric, pediatric or cardiopulmonary physical therapy. Some assistants use their experiences to become teachers in their specialty.