Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Utah
Physical therapy is becoming an ever more important component of the American healthcare sector. Due to the rise in the number of elderly individuals, an increasing number of veterans with traumatic combat related injuries, and an increased awareness of the importance of physical therapy’s role in any plan of rehabilitation, this field has seen dramatic growth.
Because of this, the need for physical therapist assistants has dramatically increased, making this profession extremely attractive to newly graduated students and individuals seeking to transition to a different career alike.
The Duties of the Physical Therapist Assistant
Physical therapy assistants have a wide range of duties. In general, they assist physicians, physical therapists and other medical professionals in developing and implementing a program of physical therapy that is appropriate for the patient’s needs. Among the most common duties a physical therapist assistant will engage in are the following:
- Carrying out a program physical therapy assigned by the supervising physical therapist and physician.
- Evaluating and reporting the patient’s progress to the supervising medical staff. This may include assisting the medical staff in modifying the physical therapy regimen for the patient.
- When the patient is discharged from the facility, training caregivers and family members in how best to continue exercises designed to restore full physical function to the patient.
- In the field of eldercare, providing exercises designed to stimulate both the physical bodies and minds of the elderly. This may require the physical therapist assistant to work with individuals who are suffering various types of senile dementia or degenerative mental disorders.
Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Utah
Utah, like all states, only allows licensed physical therapist assistants to practice.
The Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing requires that any applicants for licensure to complete the following steps:
- Complete an accredited physical therapy assistant program.
- Take and pass the National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE).
- Take and pass the Utah Physical Therapist Law Examination.
- If the candidate is licensed as a physical therapist assistant in another state, he or she may seek licensure by endorsement.
The Physical Therapist Assistant Program
Physical therapist assistant programs are offered by community colleges and vocational schools. In most cases, these programs take approximately two years for a full-time student to complete, after which they are awarded an associates degree.
Many programs also offer part-time and distance learning options for those students who cannot attend on a full-time schedule, allowing working students to complete the program at their own pace.
It is vital that the student ensure that his or her program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
This organization sets professional standards for all physical therapy assistant programs in the nation, and ensures that they provide the education the students will need to effectively fulfill their duties as a physical therapy assistant.
Utah will not accept non-accredited programs, so the student should check with his collage and the CAPTE to ensure that the program is currently in good standing before enrolling.
Taking the NPTE
The NPTE is a comprehensive national test that is designed to effectively evaluate the candidate’s practical and academic qualifications to be a physical therapist assistant.
The candidate should be certain that he or she is prepared for the exam, as failing the NPTE will delay the individual’s ability to obtain a license until the next schedule exam date.
The Legal Examination
Like many states, Utah also administers a legal exam to ensure that the physical therapist assistant is fully aware of his or her duties and rights under state law.
This is a very important step, as there are many services that a physical therapist assistant is not allowed to provide without the direct supervision and authorization of a supervising physical therapist or physician.
Licensure by Endorsement
If the individual has already obtained a license in another state, he or she may attempt to be licensed by endorsement. The individual must have his or her home state transmit a verification of the license and the NPTE scores to the Utah Board. Finally, individuals who are seeking licensure by endorsement must still take the legal examination before becoming licensed in Utah.
The Benefits of Becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant in Utah
The employment of physical therapy assistants in Utah is currently enjoying a period of sustained growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the national employment levels for physical therapist assistants will grow by 46 percent by 2020.
When coupled with the retirement of currently practicing assistants, this will lead to excellent employment opportunities for new physical therapist assistants. In addition, the median annual salary for physical therapy assistants in Utah is over $41,000, which favorably compares with other professional occupations that require the same level of education and licensure.
By becoming a physical therapy assistant, an individual can enter a financially and personally rewarding career. In addition, by becoming a vital part of America’s healthcare sector, the physical therapy assistant is respected by professionals and patients alike. For these reasons, those interested in a healthcare career should consider becoming physical therapy assistants.