Physical therapy is an increasingly important part of America’s healthcare sector.
With the recognition that a full recovery from a traumatic injury or illness requires long-term therapy, skilled physical therapy assistants are in greater demand than ever before.
Because of this, the field of physical therapy is an excellent choice for individuals seeking a rewarding and secure medical career.
The Physical Therapy Assistant Job
Physical therapy assistants work with and under the supervision of physical therapists, doctors and other medical professionals. As a part of the medical team, the physical therapy assistant works with the patient and his or her fellow professionals to ensure that all physical therapy treatments are effectively carried out.
Physical therapy assistants must be detailed oriented and have excellent communication skills. They will be working with a diverse group of patients, ranging from those who are working to recover from minor surgery to individuals who have suffered traumatic injuries. Furthermore, due to the stress that many individual undergo during physical therapy, the physical therapy assistant must be able to maintain an encouraging and professional attitude at all times.
Among the common duties physical therapy assistants carry out are the following:
- The assistant will observe and evaluate the patient before, during and after the therapy session. This information will be used by the physical therapist to determine if any changes to the therapy are required.
- As a part of the physical therapy session, the assistant will assist the patient in performing the exercises. Depending on the patient and the nature of the therapy, this may require that the assistant partially or fully support the patient’s weight.
- Assist the patient in using a variety of exercise and support equipment, such as walkers and canes. In addition, the physical therapy assistant will train the patient and their family or caregivers in how to safely use any equipment that is sent home with them.
- Physical therapy assistants help educate the patient and any caregivers in how to continue their physical therapy at home. In some cases, this will include in-home visits by the assistant to evaluate the individual’s progress.
Physical Therapy Specialties
In addition to their general training, many physical therapy assistants specialize in certain types of physical therapy. Such specialties can include the following areas, depending on the assistant’s employer:
- The assistant may work with individuals suffering from degenerative neurological disorders.
- Assisting patients to recover their mobility after a long period of being bedridden.
- Some assistants will work with other medical professionals in order to assist the victims of traumatic accidents to learn how to effectively use prosthetics.
Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant In Texas
In order to become a licensed physical therapy assistant in Texas, the individual must have graduated from an accredited associate’s program in physical therapy, pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and successfully complete the jurisprudence exam. Individuals who are currently licensed to practice in other states may elect to attempt to obtain licensure by endorsement, which will only obligate them to take the jurisprudence exam.
Completing a Physical Therapy Program
In order to obtain an associates degree in physical therapy, students must attend a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This nationally recognized organization ensures that all accredited programs can provide their students with an effective education in the field of physical therapy. In most cases, coursework performed at a non-accredited school will not be accepted by Texas. For this reason, it is very important that the student ensure that his or her school is currently in good standing with the CAPTE.
Physical therapy programs include a combination of classroom and practical instruction. In many cases, this will include supervised clinical experience, including hands-on work with actual patients in affiliated hospitals or other facilities. Most programs will take approximately two years for a full-time student to complete. Some schools also offer part-time programs in order to accommodate working students.
While some academic courses may be offered online, the student must be able to physically attend those classes offering practical instruction, in addition to any required clinical experience. Students who expect to face scheduling or mobility issues that might impact their ability to attend their classes should work with the faculty to come to an acceptable arrangement.
Taking the NPTE
The NPTE is a nationally recognized exam for physical therapy assistants and is designed to evaluate their practical and academic qualifications.
All Texas applicants must take and pass the NPTE in order to become licensed physical therapy assistants.
If the candidate fails to pass the NPTE, he or she may retake the test. However, a failure to pass the second exam or any future exam will result in the student being required to complete a course of study designed to improve his or her chances of passing the exam. For this reason, it is important to only take the NPTE when the student is confident of passing it.
The State Jurisprudence Exam
The jurisprudence exam is designed to test the physical therapy assistant’s understanding of his or her duties and rights under state law. This test is an open book test, and can be repeated if the student fails it. Even those candidates who are seeking licensure by endorsement must take the jurisprudence exam in order to prove their understanding of Texas law.
Career Prospects for Physical Therapy Assistants In Texas And The U.S.A
Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that there are over 110,000 physical therapy assistants in the United States. Texas is amongst the states with the greatest opportunity and demand for PTAs. Furthermore, the BLS estimates that the number of physical therapy assistant positions will increase by 45 percent by 2020. This is much faster than the average rate of job increase in the United States. When combined with attrition due to retirement, this means that the employment opportunities for new physical therapy assistants will continue to be very promising.
Becoming a physical therapy assistant is an excellent choice for those interested in a well-compensated career with abundant opportunities for professional advancement. By working to assist individuals to recover from injury and illness alike, the physical therapy assistant plays a vital and respected role in the modern healthcare sector.