Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical Therapist assistant

Basic Information about Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapist assistants sometimes referred to as PTAs, work as part of a team, comprising of other medical professionals,to assist patients who are recovering from certain illnesses or injuries to regain their normal movement as well as manage pains. These medical professionals work under the supervision and instruction of the physical therapist. For an individual to be recognized and work in the medical profession as a physical therapist assistant, he or she must obtain a license or certification.

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs), provides assistant to the physical therapist. They assist to provide treatment and care to individuals belonging to different age group, from newborn babies to the very oldest individual, who have some medical challenges or other health-related conditions that limits their ability to move and perform some basic activities in their daily lives.  Patients in this category, may be those who have some difficulties in movements as a result of diseases or injuries. The PTAs assist the physical therapists with therapies that are specially designed to improve patient’s mobility, pain relief, reduce or prevent permanent physical disabilities, and improve on the overall fitness as well as wellness of patients.

Patients that are normally taken care of by the PTAs may include people with short and long term disabling conditions; they are those with low back pain, head injuries, fractures, heart diseases, fracture, cerebral palsy and arthritis. Others are accident victims.The physical therapist assistant, observes patients during treatment, and they also collect and evaluate data on their responses to the treatment. They also furnish results on the data collected, which they send to the physical therapist. The PTAs also instructs, motivates, safeguard as well as assist patients during exercise practices and functional efforts. They also help clients to dress up, put on or remove supportive devices like braces and slings. When families or caregivers comes around to inquire of patient’s condition, the physical therapist assistant is usually called upon to brief them.

A physical therapists may also be called upon most times to move patients to and from treatment areas, lift and also transfer clients in line with the standard positioning requirements. PTAs also monitors operation of certain apparatus and take record of their use and treatment administration.

Job Description and working conditions

The job of a physical therapists includes assisting patients in improving mobility, prevent or minimize future physical impairment, as well as relieve pains. They work under the direct supervision and instruction of a physical therapist. Patients that they work with includes those that are injured or have certain disability. The treatment plan that may be designed for clients, may include equipment or exercises that will enable patients to move around more efficiently.

While the duty of a physical therapist includes to develop treatment plans for patients, the physical therapists assistants, helps to provide instructions as well as therapy, such as ultrasound, stimulation tools and balance coordination, and massage.They also take record of the patient’s reaction to various treatments. Other duties performed by the physical therapist assistant includes helping patients with some devices like leg braces or crutches. They may also be asked to answer the phone calls, order for some medical supplies and also fill out some certain forms or supervise a physical therapist aide that carries out some administrative and clerical tasks.

Working conditions

Physical therapists assistant works in different settings such as outpatient physical therapy clinics, hospitals, schools, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation centers, sports and fitness facilities. Most of them work from Mondays to Fridays. Work hours may differ, depending on the employment status as well as the facility. The job is somehow demanding;this is due to the fact that the physical therapist assistants, have to walk, kneel, stoop, lift, crouch and also stand for long hours, attending to patients.

PTAs work in a variety of settings including outpatient physical therapy clinics, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools as well as home health agencies, sports and fitness facilities. Some skilled nursing facilities as well as hospitals, provides reduced coverage on weekends and many outpatient physical therapy centers and clinics also make provision for evening and weekend hours, to accommodate patients’ schedules.Physical therapist assistants, may also move heavy equipment and lift patients; the help patients to turn, stand and also to walk.

Education, training and certification

For students who are interested in becoming a physical therapist assistant, the first thing you need to do is to go for an associate degree program, offered by either a community college or university.It requires solid theoretical class work as well as training before an individual can earn the associate degree in physical therapy assistant. Classes in the PTA program are;

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Psychology
  • Kinesiology
  • neuroscience

After completion of classroom education, it is very vital for a physical therapist assistant to have some clinical training and experience. The associate degree programs for the physical therapist assistant, last for about 2 years. Also, they must be accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association’s Commission. A lot of states, requires medical professionals in this field to be licensed, registered or certified. It is very important for the physical therapists to be aware of these requirement as well as regulations, from the state’s licensing board, where he or she intends to work.

Further Reading: How long does it take to become Physical Therapist Assistant

There are many areas students can specialize in like geriatric, musculoskeletal, pediatric, cardiopulmonary and also neuromuscular therapy. All these specializations that are listed here, are recognized through the American Physical Therapy Association.


The middle 50 percent, received between US$43,200 and US$65,700. While the lowest 10 percent received about US$31,840 annually, the highest 10 percent earned a yearly salary of US$75,530 or more. More about physical therapist assistant salary can be read here.

Job Growth and Career outlook

Employment in this field, as proposed by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, will grow faster than the average for other jobs. This is brought about by the easing of reimbursement restrictions for treatments, which will grant more patients, access to these services. In addition to this, the growing elderly population, will also result in an increase in the demand for physical therapy services.