In today’s increasingly important healthcare sector, the field of physical therapy is enjoying sustained and robust growth.
Where physical therapy was originally focused primarily on helping individuals to recover from serious injuries, the modern field of physical therapy encompasses a wide range of treatment styles.
Modern physical therapy can assist the elderly to retain their independence, help athletes recover from sports related injuries and help individuals who are suffering from arthritis or other degenerative diseases.
For this reason, ensuring that there is a sufficient supply of qualified physical therapy providers is driving the growing demand for licensed physical therapy assistants (PTAs).
What Does a PTA Do?
In most cases, these programs are created specifically for a single patient and are evaluated on an individual basis. PTAs must be able to carry out their duties in a professional and caring manner, especially when working with patients who are suffering from serious diseases or injuries.
In general, the PTA must be able to carry out the following duties:
- The PTA must be able to physically assist his or her patients. This is especially true for PTAs who worked with handicapped individuals who may need a great deal of assistance in completing their program of exercise.
- A PTA must be able to understand medical terminology and orders. In addition, PTAs must be able to provide accurate reports when asked to evaluate their patients’ progress.
- PTAs must be able to work with individuals who may be suffering from cognitive or emotional disabilities while continuing to behave in a professional manner.
- The PTA will often be called upon to instruct their patient’s family caregivers in how to carry out in home physical therapy in a safe and effective manner.
Current Employment Opportunities for PTAs
Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) believes that the employment opportunities for qualified PTAs are showing sustained and robust growth. As of 2012, there were about 70,000 PTA jobs in the United States.
Furthermore, the number of jobs was expected to grow by at least 41 percent between 2012 and 2022. When combined with job attrition among already employed PTAs, this situation makes it likely that there will be abundant job opportunities for individuals seeking to enter this field.
With nearly 250 currently employed PTAs, South Dakota’s job growth rate is likely to equal or exceed the national growth rate, further improving the job prospects for newly licensed PTAs in the state. Additionally, qualified South Dakota PTAs can easily become licensed in other states should they decide to leave the state at some point.
Becoming a PTA in South Dakota
South Dakota only permits licensed PTAs to practice in the state. Practicing without a license, whatever the individual’s other qualifications, violates both criminal and civil law.
At the very least, such individuals may find that they are permanently barred from obtaining a license in South Dakota.
The South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners is in charge of licensing state PTAs.
- Completed a PTA program at an accredited school.
- Successfully completed the National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE).
- Fulfilled any additional steps the Board requires. As the Board may change its approval process, it is important that anyone seeking to become a PTA in South Dakota directly verify that their information is current.
Most PTA programs take approximately two years for a full-time student to complete. These programs are offered by community colleges and vocational institutions.
These programs include both academic and hands on instruction in order to prepare the students for the challenges they will face as PTAs. In addition, many programs allow students to attend classes on a part time basis, which can be especially helpful for those students who are currently working.
Finally, distance learning and online courses can allow a student to attend his or her classes from home. This is very useful in a state such as South Dakota, where the college may be located inconveniently far from the student’s place of residence.
However, it is very important to ensure that the PTA program has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). A program that has not been accredited will not be accepted by South Dakota for purposes of licensure.
Furthermore, students who have been trained by a foreign program must be able to provide proof that their program is substantially equal to a CAPTE accredited program before it will be accepted by the Board.
The NPTE is a comprehensive examination that is designed to evaluate the candidate’s proficiency in the field of physical therapy. In order to pass it, the candidate must have a firm grasp of both the academic and practical aspects of a PTA’s duties. Should the student fail to pass the NPTE, he or she must repeat the examination. This will result in a substantial delay in the candidate’s licensure process.
More importantly, many states limit the total number of times an individual can retake the NPTE. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) currently limits the amount of test attempts to no more than five attempts. After that point, the candidate must submit a plan of remedial training to the FSBPT before he or she may retake the test.
In some states, failing the test beyond a certain number of times will permanently bar the candidate from becoming a PTA in that state. For this reason, PTA candidates should only take the NPTE when they are confident of passing the examination.
Ultimately, becoming a PTA can be an excellent personal and professional choice. It allows an individual to enter a respected and well-compensated field that has numerous opportunities for professional advancement. Those individuals who are seeking a rewarding career as a healthcare professional should seriously consider becoming a PTA.
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