Physical therapy is a growing field in the modern American healthcare sector.
Because of this, those individuals wishing to enter a field with excellent advancement and salary prospects should consider becoming a physical therapy assistant.
North Carolina is an example of a state where there is a great demand for physical therapy assistants by hospitals, clinics and individual practices alike.
What Are the Duties of a Physical Therapy Assistant?
Physical therapy is the field of using a variety of exercises to assist individuals in regaining their full physical capabilities after an accident or illness.
In addition, physical therapy is used to mitigate the symptoms of degenerative diseases such as arthritis. Among the elderly, physical therapy may also help delay the onset of dementia, helping the individual maintain an independent lifestyle for longer than would be the case without the use of physical therapy.
In general, a physical therapist assistant will work with physical therapists, physicians, and other medical professionals in helping to implement and evaluate a program of physical therapy for the patient.
Among the common duties of a physical therapist assistant are the following:
- The physical therapy assistant will assist in carrying out specific exercises and drills as part of a physical therapy plan established by the supervising therapist.
- Evaluate and report on the patient’s progress, and assist the physical therapist in determining if the program of therapy needs to be modified.
- Assist the patient in learning how to safely use physical therapy equipment, both in the clinic or hospital and at home.
- Assist caregivers in learning how to effectively work with the patient at home, including how to safely assist the patient in carrying out household tasks.
- The therapist assistant will help train mobility-impaired individuals in the use of equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers. In the case of individuals who have lost a limb due to amputation, this may include training in how to properly use a prosthetic device.
Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant in North Carolina
Like all states, North Carolina requires that any practicing physical therapy assistant be licensed. The North Carolina Board of Physical Therapy Examiners has established the following criteria for awarding a candidate a license to practice in the state:
- Graduation from an accredited physical therapy assistant program.
- The candidate must successfully complete the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).
- Finally, the candidate must pass a state jurisprudence examination.
- In some cases, an individual who has been licensed in another state may obtain licensure in North Carolina by endorsement.
Physical Therapist Assistant Programs
Physical therapist assistant programs are offered by a variety of schools, including community colleges and vocational schools. In most cases, it will take about two years for a full-time student to complete the program and receive his or her associate’s degree. These programs focus on both the theory and practice of physical therapy, preparing the student to effectively serve his or her patients under the direction of a physical therapist.
Many programs also offer part-time and distance learning options for those students who cannot attend the program on a standard schedule. This is especially important for the growing number of students who must work while attending the program.
In most cases, these students attend their classes in the evenings and on the weekends. Finally, some classes can be taken online, which allows the student to complete them from home at his or her own pace.
In order to be accepted by North Carolina, a physical therapy assistant program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This agency ensures that the program complies with the professional and academic requirements for training students in the field of physical therapy. In addition, CAPTE will periodically review a program to ensure that it remains in compliance with the agency’s standards.
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Taking the NPTE
Upon graduation, the student may then take the NPTE. This is a comprehensive exam that is designed to evaluate all aspects of the student’s expertise. A student should only take the NPTE when he or she is confident of passage, as failing the NPTE will result in a delay in obtaining a physical therapist assistant’s license until the student can retake the test. Furthermore, the student may incur additional registration costs if he or she must retake the test.
The Jurisprudence Examination
Finally, the candidate must complete and pass a state jurisprudence examination. This exam is designed to ensure that the individual fully understands the rights and responsibilities of a physical therapist under the laws of North Carolina. There is no limit on how many times the student may retake this test, but a license will not be issued until the test is passed.
Licensure by Endorsement
Individuals who are licensed in another state may obtain a license by endorsement from North Carolina. However, they may not practice in the state until North Carolina has issued them a license, regardless of their status in any other state.
This requires that the state in which he or she is licensed in has requirements that are substantially equal to those of North Carolina. For that reason, any individual intending to move to North Carolina should contact the Board well in advance to ensure that he or she will qualify for licensure by endorsement.
Becoming a physical therapy assistant is an excellent choice for any individual who is interested in a career in the healthcare sector. In addition to promising salary and advancement options, physical therapy assistants enjoy a great deal of respect from their fellow medical professionals and the public alike.
These factors make this career one that can be both professionally and personally satisfying to those individuals who choose to enter the field of physical therapy.