In today’s modern healthcare sector, effective physical therapy is more important than ever. Because of this, physical therapy assistants (PTAs) have become an increasingly vital part of any full-spectrum healthcare process.
This has resulted in a dramatic expansion of available PTA jobs, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating that there were over 67,000 PTAs working in the United States in 2010 and that number is expected to increase by at least 46 percent by 2020.
For this reason, many individuals interested in a healthcare career have considered becoming PTAs.
However, it is important for individuals who are seeking to become a PTA to be aware of potential difficulties this career can pose for new and experienced members alike.
Every state and Puerto Rico will only permit licensed PTAs to practice.
- Enter and complete a PTA program. Most states require that any domestic program be accredited by the state or the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
- Most states also require the successful completion of the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) or an equivalent state examination.
- Finally, a number of states require that the candidate take and pass a state jurisprudence exam in order to demonstrate their familiarity with the state’s laws regarding the practice of physical therapy.
- Finally, many states have a variety of requirements involving criminal background checks and may also refuse to license individuals who have been found guilty of certain offenses.
- Most states require licensed PTAs to obtain continuing education units as a precondition for renewing their license.
Because of this, becoming a PTA represents a considerable investment of time and money. While many colleges offer part-time classes for students who are currently working, the cost of school may still be a serious burden on the student.
While student loans are one option, not all students will qualify for them, and of course, those loans must be repaid.
In addition, some states put a limit on how many times a student may retake the NPTE. Failing the test too many times can result in a student being forced to take remedial courses, or even being barred from ever gaining licensure as a PTA in one or more states.
This can be especially important for students who find themselves unable to do well on the NPTE.
Licensure in Other States
Another issue PTAs must face is that even if they are licensed in one state, they cannot practice in any other state without obtaining a license from its own professional regulatory agency.
While some states will allow a PTA from another state to obtain a temporary license while his or her permanent license is prepared, other states do not offer temporary licenses, which can dramatically impact the PTAs ability to find employment until he or she has been granted a new license.
Work Issues with PTAs
Being a PTA is a great responsibility and many PTAs face very heavy workloads, although they do not face the same degree of unscheduled overtime that other medical professionals do.
However, it is important for all PTAs to understand that they are entering a field that demands a high degree of physical and mental commitment.
Physical Work Issues
PTAs assist patients with their physical therapy. In many cases, this requires physically assisting the patient to carry out the therapy, which often requires a great deal of strength.
This is especially true for those PTAs who work with disabled individuals or those individuals who are recovering from a major surgical procedure or illness.
This can be an especially serious problem for PTAs who provide in-home care, as they will usually be working alone, without the support of other medical professionals. Because of this, strength, dexterity, and endurance are vital qualities for most PTAs.
Mental and Emotional Work Issues
For PTAs working with seriously ill individuals, emotional stress can be a very real issue. In many cases, a PTA may find that one or more of his or her patients will succumb to their condition, adding to the PTAs stress.
This can be especially telling when working with elderly individuals who often have cognitive and emotional issues that can make them extremely resistant to working with medical professionals.
This is especially true for PTAs who work in eldercare facilities, where many of their duties revolve around attempting to mitigate the effects of old age, as opposed to curing any specific ailment.
PTAs are limited by state law from providing a number of treatments. All states forbid licensed PTAs from providing a diagnosis of a patient’s condition for example. Because of this, a PTA must always be aware of what services he or she is allowed to provide.
Breaching these restrictions, even at the direction of a physical therapist or other superior can expose the PTA to severe civil and even criminal penalties, including the potential loss of his or her license.
While becoming a PTA can allow an individual to enter a rewarding and financially secure career, it is important to remember that this career also demands a high level of skill and commitment.
Before entering a PTA program, anyone interested in this field should seriously consider if they are able to withstand the physical, mental and emotional stress it will impose upon them.
By doing so, an individual who chooses to become a PTA can be confident that he or she will never regret that decision.View PTA Schools