Most of the time, a physical therapy assistant works under the guidance, supervision, and direction of a licensed physical therapist. They help with many things that a physical therapist typically attends to, but they often have less involvement in treatment planning. A physical therapy assistant helps fulfill the care plan, which is intended to help the patient recover from injuries, illnesses, and surgeries, as well as to regain movement and assist with pain management.
Most states require that physical therapy assistants have an associate's degree from an accredited physical therapy program. A common workplace for a physical therapy assistant is in organizations with a physical therapist; this can include, for example, a hospital or private clinic.
Common skills and tasks a physical therapy assistant are trained in are therapeutic exercise, functional, mobility and ambulation training. Other skills and tasks include activities of daily living, treatments using electrical stimulation, massage, balance and coordination training, and assessments of range of motion and strength. Goals of working with a patient include improving mobility, increasing physical strength, and regaining or improving the ability to function at work or at home.
A physical therapy assistant can expect to have a very physically active job. They are commonly constantly in motion helping patients do their therapies and exercise. Lifting weights in excess of 50 pounds is common.
Physical Therapy Assistant Tasks
- Observe and document the progress of treatment.
- Assist physical therapists in providing physical therapy treatments and procedures.
- Monitor operation of equipment and record use of equipment.
- Fit and train patients for orthopedic braces, prostheses, and supportive devices, such as crutches.
- Transport patients to and from treatment areas, lift and transfer them according to positioning requirements, secure into or onto therapy equipment.