Steps On How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in Alaska
Physical and occupational therapy is becoming an increasingly important part of the modern healthcare sector.
In addition to the use of physical therapy to help individuals recover from accidents or illnesses, repetitive motion injuries have become an serious problem, even for individuals who are not commonly expected to suffer work-related injuries, such as clerical employees.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there were at least 114,000 physical therapist assistants employed in the United States in 2010 and that by 2020 that number will have increased by at least 45 percent.
Because of this rapid job growth, this field is extremely promising for individuals seeking a long-term and secure career, whether they are newly graduated adults or already employed individuals who are seeking a new career.
Whether the physical therapist assistant is seeking employment in an urban hospital or clinic or is interested in a career providing in home care to patients, this field offers abundant opportunities.
Physical Therapist Assistant Duties
Physical therapist assistants have a range of duties, mostly focused on assisting physical therapists, physicians and other caregivers develop and implement an individualized program of therapy for their patients.
Among the most common duties physical therapist assistants may engage in are the following:
- Assisting patients in carrying out physical therapy activities.
- Evaluating the patient’s progress and providing regular reports to the supervising medical professional.
- Educating the patient and their family in how to properly use wheelchairs, walkers and other devices in a safe and effective manner.
These duties can take place in a wide range of surroundings. Most physical therapy assistants work in ambulatory care facilities where they treat individuals on an out patient basis.
Other common areas of employment include working in hospitals, convalescent or retirement homes, and as part of a physician’s office.
Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant in Alaska
Like most states, Alaska requires that all physical therapy assistants be licensed by the state before they can practice.
There are two different ways to achieve this, licensure by credentials or by examination. Licensure by credentials is designed to allow therapist assistants who have been licensed in other states obtain a license in Alaska, while licensure by examination is oriented around individuals who have just graduated from a physical therapist assistant program.
Physical Therapy Assistant Programs
Physical therapy assistant programs are offered from a variety of institutions, including community colleges, vocational training programs and adult education schools. These schools usually must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) in order to be accepted by Alaska.
Students who have completed their course work at a foreign school must provide extra documentation in order to demonstrate that their education is substantially equal to what a CAPTE accredited school would provide.
Most physical therapy assistant programs take approximately two years for a full-time student to complete and confer an associate’s degree upon graduation. Many programs also offer part-time schedules for those students who are currently working or otherwise unable to attend on a full-time basis.
These programs incorporate a mixture of classroom and hands on instruction. In some cases, a school may be associated with a hospital or other medical facility, allowing its students to interact with currently employed medical professionals. Other schools may have internships available for some students, allowing them to obtain practical experience over the course of their training.
Alaska Licensure Procedures
The Alaska State Physical Therapy/Occupational Therapy Board handles the licensure of physical therapist assistants, and provides two routes to obtain licensure.
Licensure by Credentials
Licensure by credentials is designed to provide a path to licensure for individuals who have been previously licensed in another state. This path is designed to ensure that qualified physical therapist assistants do not have to repeat their training and can quickly enter the Alaskan job market.
Licensure by credentials has the following requirements:
- A complete transcript from the school where the individual obtained his or her training.
- The individual’s National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) scores.
- Licensure verification from every state where the individual has previously practiced as a physical therapy assistant. At least one of these must be a current license.
- Proof that the individual has been previously employed as a physical therapist assistant, has completed at least 150 hours as an intern, or has completed the NPTE no earlier than 24 months before applying to the state.
- A completed jurisprudence questionnaire demonstrating the individual’s familiarity with state regulations regarding the practice of physical therapy.
Licensure by Examination
Licensure by examination is the process by which newly graduated individuals can become licensed in Alaska. In order to become a licensed physical therapist assistant, the following requirements must be met:
- A transcript from the physical therapy program the candidate graduated from.
- A professional reference from the head of the physical therapy school or other qualified individual who supervised the candidate’s training.
- A completed jurisprudence questionnaire.
After completing these steps, the individual must take the NPTE and obtain a passing score in order to become a licensed physical therapy assistant.
Ultimately, becoming a physical therapy assistant opens a wide range of professional and personal opportunities.
No matter the candidate’s age or previous experience, this can be an excellent career for those interested in a dynamic and growing part of the healthcare sector.