Becoming a New Jersey Physical Therapist Assistant
Becoming a physical therapist assistant in New Jersey is an increasingly attractive career choice in today’s economy. With a growing emphasis on providing high quality physical therapy to patients of every type, the field of physical therapy is showing robust growth and employment opportunities for physical therapy assistants.
In New Jersey, there are currently nearly 1,000 physical therapy assistants who are licensed and actively practicing, with an annual median wage of over $57,000.
Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the number of physical therapy assistant career openings will increase by 45 percent between 2010 and 2020. This, coupled with the retirement of older physical therapy assistants will help ensure that newly licensed assistants will continue to enjoy excellent career prospects in New Jersey.
The Duties of the Physical Therapy Assistant
The physical therapy assistant is a healthcare professional who, in cooperation with physical therapists, physicians and other healthcare providers, works to plan and administer a program of physical therapy.
The physical therapy assistant works in a wide variety of settings, ranging from urban hospitals to in-home settings for individual patients. In most cases, the assistant will work under the overall supervision of a physical therapist and will assist in implementing an overall physical therapy strategy.
The most common duties a physical therapy assistant will perform include the following:
- Physical therapy assistants work closely with physical therapists and supervising physicians in developing an effective program of physical therapy for their patients.
- In most cases, the physical therapy assistant will be closely involved in instructing the patient in how to perform his or her exercises. In addition to basic instruction, the physical therapy assistant will help train the patient on any equipment the physical therapist has assigned for his or her use.
- Physical therapist assistants assist mobility-impaired individuals to regain their independence. In many cases, they will help train them in the effective and safe use of mobility aids, such as walkers or canes. In other cases, the physical therapist assistant will assist the patient in learning how to safely move about their home, in addition to training caregivers in how to best assist their family member.
- Physical therapy is a long-term process, and in many cases patients will continue to be treated by the physical therapy assistant after being discharged from the hospital. In some cases, they will receive periodic in-home visits by the therapist in order to be evaluated, while other patients may be treated at a clinic or other medical facility.
Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant in New Jersey
New Jersey requires that all physical therapy assistants be licensed by the state before being allowed to practice. In general, the state has two routes to licensure.
The first is to complete an approved program and take the National Physical Therapy Assistant Examination (NPTAE). The second is to obtain licensure by endorsement, which requires that the individual be currently licensed to practice as a physical therapy assistant in another state. In both cases, the candidate must take a state jurisprudence examination before obtaining his or her license.
Physical Therapy Assistant Programs
There are a number of physical therapy assistant programs offered by community colleges and vocational schools in New Jersey. In most cases, completing a physical therapy assistant program requires two years of full-time study.
In addition, there are a number of part-time and distance learning options for individuals who are currently working or otherwise unable to attend the program on a regular schedule.
However, it is important that the student ensure that his or her program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Programs that have not been accredited usually cannot be used to fulfill New Jersey’s educational requirements for obtaining a physical therapy assistant’s license.
For this reason, students should make certain that a program is in good standing with the CAPTE before enrolling in it.
Physical Therapist Schools In New Jersey
The NPTAE is a comprehensive exam that covers all aspects of the field of physical therapy as it applies to physical therapy assistants. In some states, this exam may be referred to as the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). While New Jersey does allow an individual to retake the NPTAE if he or she fails the exam, this could seriously delay the process of obtaining a license, so the student should only take the NPTAE if he or she is confident of passing the exam.
The State Jurisprudence Exam
New Jersey also requires that the candidate take and pass a test covering New Jersey law as it relates to the practice of physical therapy. This test is especially important for physical therapy assistants as there are a number of legal restrictions on the services they can offer patients without being under the supervision of a physical therapist or physician.
Licensure by Endorsement
Individuals who are already licensed in another state may avoid having to repeat a physical therapy assistant program and the NPTAE. In order to do so, the must submit their license and other professional information to the State Board of Physical Therapy Examiners. However, these individuals must also complete the state jurisprudence exam in order to be licensed to practice in New Jersey. It is important to note that licensure by another state does not allow an individual to practice in New Jersey. Any individual planning to work as a physical therapist assistant in New Jersey must be licensed by the state.
Becoming a physical therapy assistant is an excellent path to a professionally rewarding, well-compensated and secure career. In addition, therapy assistants can enjoy the satisfaction that comes from being a vital part of America’s healthcare sector. With the continuing increase in the need for qualified physical therapy assistants, this career will continue to be an excellent choice for those seeking a career in the field of physical therapy.