All About Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Wisconsin
Physical therapy is increasingly important in the modern healthcare sector.
With a growing awareness of the importance of postoperative physical therapy, in addition to the important role it can play in assisting the elderly to maintain an active and independent lifestyle, physical therapy is now found at every level of medical care.
Because of this, physical therapists and physical therapy assistants are finding themselves in increasing demand by the healthcare sector.
The Duties of the Physical Therapy Assistant
Physical therapy assistants provide a wide range of services in the healthcare industry. In general, they work with physicians, physical therapists, nurses and other healthcare professionals in developing, implementing and evaluating a program of physical therapy for their patients. While they work under the general supervision of their superiors, most physical therapy assistants work with their patients on an individual basis.
Among the most common duties of the physical therapy assistant are the following:
- Helping to develop a program of physical therapy for their patient, in cooperation with other medical professionals.
- Instruct the patient in how to safely and effectively perform their physical therapy exercises.
- Evaluate the patient’s progress and help other medical professionals to determine if any modifications to the therapy are required.
- The physical therapist assistant will help train mobility impaired patients in how to safely use walkers and other equipment. In addition, the physical therapy assistant will instruct family members and other caregivers in how to safely help the patient.
- In cases where the patient has suffered the amputation of a limb, the physical therapist assistant will help him or her learn how to effectively use prosthetic replacements.
Where Do Physical Therapy Assistants Work
Physical therapy assistants have a wide range of potential career fields. While most assistants work in ambulatory health care facilities, a large number also work in hospitals, convalescent homes and rehabilitation centers.
In other cases, physical therapy assistants may provide in-home care for individuals who are unable to travel to a central facility.
Finally, the rising importance of sports medicine has resulted in a growing demand for qualified physical therapy assistants in athletic clubs and other sports facilities.
Steps To Becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant in Wisconsin
Wisconsin requires that all physical therapy assistants be licensed by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.
Even those physical therapist assistants who have been licensed in another state cannot practice in Wisconsin until they have obtained a state license.
In order to obtain a license, the candidate must complete the following steps:
Physical Therapy Assistant Programs
Physical therapy assistant programs usually take about two years for a full-time student to complete, depending on his or her specific schedule. Upon their successful graduation, most programs confer an associate’s degree upon the student.
Physical therapy assistant programs provide a wide range of classes, including both academic and hands-on exercises.
In some cases, a program may also involve working directly with patients while under the supervision of the instructor or other medical professionals. In this way, the students can gain a practical understanding of the field of physical therapy.
Finally, many physical therapy programs offer part-time class schedules for those students who cannot attend school on a full-time schedule.
This can be extremely useful for students who are currently working while attending school. Although completing the program on a part-time basis will require more time, it allows the students to do so at their own pace.
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Finally, it is important that the student make certain that his or her program is currently accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Non-accredited programs may not be accepted by the Wisconsin licensing authorities, and some states refuse to accept any non-accredited work. For this reason, the student should ensure that his or her program is accredited by the CAPTE.
Taking the NPTE
The NPTE is the nationally recognized exam for physical therapy assistants. This test is a comprehensive evaluation of the candidate’s academic and practical qualifications to work in the field of physical therapy. Although a candidate can retake the NPTE in the case of failure, this will delay his or her licensure and may impact the candidate’s eligibility for licensure in other states.
Because of this, a candidate should only take the NPTE when he or she is confident of passing the examination.
The State Law Examination
Wisconsin’s open book state law examination is designed to evaluate the candidate’s understanding of rights and responsibilities of the physical therapist assistant under state law.
While this is an open book test, all candidates should be certain that they understand their responsibilities, as failing to abide by state law may result in penalties that can include the suspension or loss of their license, in addition to possible criminal charges.
Employment Options for Physical Therapist Assistants
Currently, physical therapist assistants are enjoying a robust and growing job market.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that until 2020, the number of available jobs for physical therapist assistants will grow by 46 percent and beyond.
With 1,400 physical therapist assistants who are earning an annual mean wage of over $48,000, the employment and professional opportunities for Wisconsin physical therapist assistants are quite promising.
By working as a physical therapy assistant, an individual can enjoy a well compensated and personally rewarding career that is highly regarded by society.
Whether they are working to help severely injured individuals to walk again, or helping the elderly maintain their physical independence, physical therapist assistants provide a vital service for all Americans.
For this reason, those interested in a career in healthcare would be well advised to seriously consider becoming a physical therapy assistant.