The field of physical therapy has become an increasingly vital part of America’s healthcare sector.
Because of this, the need for skilled physical therapy professionals is greater than ever and will continue to grow as time passes.
As an important part of the field of physical therapy, physical therapy assistants currently enjoy promising professional opportunities in the United States.
Where Physical Therapist Assistants Work
Physical therapist assistants have a wide range of potential careers, ranging from working in urban hospitals to providing in-home care for the elderly and disabled.
The growing emphasis on physical therapy as a vital component of most medical treatments has drastically increased the number of areas where physical therapist assistants can find employment. Some of the more common careers include the following:
Physical therapist assistants commonly work in major public and private hospitals, assisting physicians and physical therapists in providing rehabilitative therapy to individuals suffering from major injuries or recovering from a long period of bed rest.
- Rehabilitation and convalescent centers employ a large number of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. They treat a wide variety of patients, ranging from individuals who are working to recover their full physical capabilities after an accident to disabled or elderly individuals receiving long-term physical therapy.
- A rising source of employment for physical therapy assistants is the field of sports medicine. Physical therapist assistants specializing in this area help provide physical therapy to assist individuals who have suffered sporting related injuries.
- Finally, a growing number of specialty fields involve physical therapist assistants. These fields include pediatric and geriatric care, as well as specialties designed to assist individuals with prosthetics regain as much physical capability as possible.
Physical Therapy Assistants in Iowa
Iowa requires that all physical therapist assistants be licensed by the state before they can practice. This includes both newly graduated students from a physical therapy assistant program and physical therapists who have been licensed in other states.
In order to become licensed, the candidate must satisfy the following requirements:
- Complete an approved physical therapy assistant training program.
- Take and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).
- Individuals licensed in another state can apply to receive licensure by endorsement.
Completing a Physical Therapist Assistant Program
In most cases, physical therapist assistant programs are offered by community colleges and vocational schools.
These programs usually take two years for a full-time student to complete and confer an associate’s degree upon the graduate.
These programs usually require that all candidates have proof of graduation from a high school or equivalent before they will be admitted to the program.
Physical therapist assistant programs involve both classroom and practical instruction. The students receive training in how to effectively provide physical therapy to their patients, in addition to the underlying medical knowledge they will need in order to effectively carry out their duties.
In addition, many schools will have a clinical component to the program, where students will work with actual patients while under the direct supervision of trained and licensed physical therapists and physical therapist assistants.
In order to be accepted by the Iowa Bureau of Professional Licensure, a program must have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
This organization sets national standards for physical therapist assistant programs and ensures that all accredited schools adhere to those standards. For that reason, it is very important that the student verify that his or her program is currently in good standing with CAPTE.
Taking the NPTE
The NPTE is the national examination for all physical therapist assistants. The candidate must take and pass this exam in order qualify for licensure in Iowa.
In some cases, a student may be able to schedule the examination for a date before his or her graduation, especially if the date of graduation would result in an inconveniently long wait for a schedule examination.
It is important that the candidate work to ensure that he or she can pass the NPTE as quickly as possible. Iowa has strict standards regarding how many times the student may retake the examination.
If the candidate fails the test more than three times, the Bureau requires that the applicant both reapply for licensure and complete additional coursework before being allowed to retake the NPTE.
For this reason, a student should only take the NPTE when he or she is fully prepared to pass the examination.
Licensure by Endorsement
An individual who is a licensed physical therapy assistant in another state may obtain licensure by endorsement in Iowa, which allows them to become licensed without having to repeat any course work or retake the NPTE.
Licensure by endorsement can be obtained by submitting proof that the individual is currently licensed in another state and is in good professional standing.
Depending on the state, other documentation may be required, so the individual should check with both Iowa and his or her own state before requesting licensure by endorsement.
Career Opportunities in Iowa
Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that employment prospects for physical therapist assistants are growing at a rate that is well above the average rate of job growth in the nation.
Iowa itself currently employees nearly 900 physical therapist assistants, and that number is likely to grow by about 45 percent by 2020. Furthermore, the current mean wage for physical therapist assistants in Iowa is over $43,000.
With excellent professional opportunities, competitive wages, and a high degree of personal satisfaction, this field is an attractive one for newly graduated students.
In addition, older individual seeking to transition from their current job to a more satisfying career will find becoming a physical therapy assistant an excellent choice. Those choosing to enter this field will find themselves becoming a vital component of the modern healthcare sector.