Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Pennsylvania
In today’s economy, becoming a medical professional can be an excellent choice. This is especially true in the field of physical therapy, which is becoming a central part of many short and long-term treatment plans for those requiring various types of clinical physical therapy.
One of the most important participants in the physical therapy process is the physical therapy assistant.
These professionals assist physical therapists, physicians and other medical professionals in providing high quality physical therapy to individuals who are suffering from a variety of conditions.
The Role of the Physical Therapist Assistant
The physical therapist assistant helps physical therapists and other supervising medical professionals in developing and implementing therapy plans that are tailored for each individual patient.
This is quite important, as a patient recovering from a traumatic injury suffered in an auto wreck will require a different strategy than an elderly individual who is attempting to retain his or her freedom of movement in the face of degenerative diseases.
In many cases, the physical therapy assistant will work directly with the patients while helping to implement the over all therapy plan designed by the physical therapist.
The therapist assistant will be required to closely observe his or her patients, in order to ensure that the therapy is having the desired effect, and if not, how should it be changed. This is especially important when working with children or elderly individuals suffering from dementia, as the therapist assistant may not be able to verbally communicate with them.
In those cases, the therapy plan will be based on the ability of the therapist assistant to observe and accurately report the condition of the patient to other healthcare providers.
Types of Physical Therapist Assistant Jobs
Physical therapist assistants have a wide variety of potential career paths. A physical therapist assistant working in a hospital may primarily work with individuals who have suffered some form of injury, while a physical therapist who is employed at a sports medicine clinic may focus on preventative therapies, helping to ensure that their clients do not injure themselves by engaging in improper activities.
Common areas where a physical therapist assistant can find employment in Pennsylvania include the following:
- Helping implement physical therapy treatments at private and public hospitals, in order to help patients recover their physical abilities in the aftermath of an accident or illness.
- Working in sports medicine and other fields where the therapist assistant will focus on helping clients develop effective exercises to both recover from and reduce the chance of future sports-related injuries.
- Working in long-term convalescent and rehabilitation centers, helping individuals with chronic or serious medical conditions recover as much of their physical capability as possible.
- In senior care facilities, therapy assistants work with other medical professionals in creating exercises that can help stave off the loss of physical capabilities. In addition, some types of physical therapy may also work to partially counteract the onset of the various types of senile dementia.
Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant in Pennsylvania
Like all other states, the Pennsylvania State Board of Physical Therapy requires that the Board license all individuals intending to practice as physical therapy assistants.
The Board requires the following qualifications before it will confer a license on a candidate:
- Be at least 20 years of age unless the Board allows an exemption for the individual.
- Complete an accredited physical therapy assistant program.
- Take and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for physical therapy assistants.
Completing the Physical Therapy Assistant Program
Most physical therapy programs are offered by vocational schools and community colleges. Most of these programs can be completed in two years, presuming a full-time course load.
In addition to class work, many programs also involve a clinical component allowing the student to obtain direct, practical knowledge of the field of physical therapy.
Most physical therapist assistant programs also have provisions for part-time students. Many part-time programs have flexible scheduling options in order to accommodate those students who are currently working or have family commitments.
While part-time students usually take longer to complete the program, they have the advantage of being able to do so largely on their own schedule and at their own pace.
It is very important that a student ensure that any school he or she intends to attend is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
CAPTE ensures that all accredited programs provide the level of education needed to ensure that those who have graduated will be able to provide effective and safe physical therapy care.
As Pennsylvania generally does not accept non-accredited programs, the student should be certain to verify the status of his or her program before entering it.
The NPTE is a national examination designed to effectively and accurately evaluate a candidate’s skill in the field of physical therapy.
This is a comprehensive exam, which tests the candidate’s practical and academic knowledge ensuring that those who pass are fully qualified to work as licensed physical therapist assistants.
The NPTE is a challenging test, so the candidate should only sign up to take it when he or she is confident of passing the examination.
Becoming a physical therapist assistant in Pennsylvania is an excellent choice for individuals of all ages and professional backgrounds. With growing employment and salary opportunities, this field is highly competitive with other professions requiring similar levels of preparation.
Additionally, the increasing demand for therapist assistants, coupled with attrition from retirement in this field makes it nearly certain that licensed physical therapy assistants in Pennsylvania will enjoy a great deal of job security.
Finally, by working as a physical therapist assistant, the individual will be able to play a vital role in helping his or her patients regain their physical capabilities and independence.
This makes becoming a physical therapist assistant a decision that will be both professionally and personally rewarding.