Becoming a physical therapist assistant is an excellent choice for individuals seeking to enter a financially and professionally rewarding field.
This is especially the case in Florida, which is a state that has a very large elderly community that has produced an increasing demand for skilled physical therapy professionals. Because of these factors, becoming a licensed Florida physical therapy assistant can be an excellent career choice.
Defining the Physical Therapy Assistant
A physical therapy assistant, sometimes known as a physical therapist assistant is a licensed medical professional who works with physicians, physical therapists and other healthcare providers in planning, implementing and evaluating a course of physical therapy for his or her patients.
Depending on the nature of the patient’s needs, physical therapy may be a short or long-term procedure, and in some cases, a patient will continue to undergo physical therapy for the remainder of his or her life.
Where Physical Therapy Assistants Work
Physical therapy assistants work in a wide variety of settings. In addition to working in hospitals, physical therapy assistants are often employed by private practices and clinics.
Among the most common areas of employment for physical therapy assistants are the following:
- Hospitals require physical therapist assistants for long and short-term postoperative physical therapy. This is especially important for patients who have suffered a traumatic injury or who have been bedridden for a long period of time.
- Convalescent and rehabilitation facilities make extensive use of physical therapist assistants.
- Many types of sports medicine involve the extensive use of physical therapy. The growing emphasis on physical fitness among Americans has made this field one that is experiencing robust growth.
- In-home physical therapy has become especially important, especially for individuals such as the elderly, who may have mobility limitations.
Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant in Florida
Florida requires that all physical therapy assistants be licensed by the Florida Division of Medical Quality Assurance, which is part of the Florida Department of Health. Florida requires that any applicants have completed an accredited program for physical therapy assistants, have passed the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and have completed a state jurisprudence exam.
The Physical Therapy Assistant Program
Most physical therapy assistant programs are two-year programs that confer an associate’s degree upon graduation. These programs are designed to help the student become proficient in all aspects of the field of physical therapy.
These programs include a mix of classroom and practical instruction. In many cases, the students will have an opportunity to work in a clinical setting, under the supervision of experienced physical therapy healthcare professionals.
In addition to full-time students, most physical therapy assistant programs allow students to attend school on a part-time basis. This is especially useful for those students who are currently working in addition to attending the program.
In addition, students who currently are caring for children or other family members can attend classes while continuing to care for their family.
It is extremely important that the student ensure that his or her school is currently accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Accreditation certifies that a program conforms to the highest educational and professional standards, ensuring that its graduates are fully prepared to become physical therapist assistants. Programs that have not been accredited by CAPTE will not be accepted by Florida.
Taking the NPTE
The NPTE is a comprehensive exam that evaluates all aspects of the candidate’s readiness to become a physical therapy assistant. This exam is regularly updated in order to remain current with the modern state of physical therapy. A student must pass the NPTE in order to be eligible for licensure by Florida.
Should a student fail the NPTE three times, the Florida Board of Physical Therapy Practice will require that he or she complete remedial training before retaking the exam.
If a candidate fails the NPTE five times, he or she will be barred from licensure in Florida. For this reason it is vital that the candidate only take the NPTE when he or she is confident of passing.
The State Laws and Rules Exam
All applicants must take and successfully complete a state laws and rules exam. This exam is designed to ensure that the candidate fully understands the responsibilities that a physical therapy assistant has under state law. The candidate may retake the laws and rules exam an unlimited number of times, but must pay the application fee when retaking the exam.
Physical Therapist Assistants in Florida
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has determined that the number of physical therapist assistant jobs will increase by at least 45 percent by 2020.
Currently, there are over 4,000 physical therapist assistants employed in Florida, making the state’s employment level one of the highest in the nation. Furthermore, the median wage for Florida physical therapist assistants is nearly $57,000, which is considerably higher than the national median wage.
Finally, Florida’s popularity as a home for retirees has resulted in a growing elder care sector that further improves employment prospects for physical therapist assistants. This factor has also helped fuel growth in the specialties of convalescent and in-home physical therapy care.
Becoming a physical therapy assistant can help an individual become a professional in a field that is experiencing robust employment growth.
In addition, this field’s earning and career potential is competitive with other professions that demand the same level of education. Whether for newly graduated individuals or those seeking to transition from an unsatisfactory job, becoming a physical therapy assistant is an excellent career decision.