What Do Physical Therapist Assistants Do?

It's all about movement

The work of a Physical Therapist Assistant revolves around helping patients move, which means a lot of movement on the Assistant’s part as well. This post describes some of the basic tasks and education needed to become a Physical Therapist Assistant. 

As a Physical Therapist Assistant, you work with Physical Therapists to help patients develop mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or lessen physical disability. Physical Therapist Assistants perform a variety of different exercises with patients to help them learn activities such as using crutches or new exercises to help rehabilitate after an accident or surgery. Your primary focus as a Physical Therapist Assistant is to help the Physical Therapist improve patients’ mobility, physical strength, ability to function at work and at play, and to help relieve pain. 

Physical Therapist Assistant programs typically take 20 months to complete. They train you to assist patients in a number of different capacities, such as:

·         Therapeutic exercise

·         Functional training

·         Mobility training

·         Ambulation training

·         Activities of daily living

·         Treatments using electrical stimulation

·         Treatments using massage

·         Treatments using heat and cold

·         Treatments using traction

·         Balance and coordination training

·         Measurement assessments of range of motion and strength

The need for Physical Therapist Assistants is growing rapidly, as are the kinds of locations and facilities where Assistants can work: hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities and more. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010-2011 Edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the national median annual wage that Physical Therapist Assistants might earn is $46,000.

As a Physical Therapist Assistant, you are in constant motion as you help patients exercise, gather therapy gear, and keep the patient area clean and ready. You can also work toward career advancement as an assistant manager or a teacher.