When searching for an educational program to become a successful physical therapy assistant (PTA), the quality of the course should be imperative to earning the right degree.
While PTAs can choose between PTA programs that can be completed in as short as 10 months and two-year associate’s degree programs, the objective of aspiring physical therapy assistants should be to find an accredited program. Only when choosing the right college can students enroll into a PTA program that will properly prepare them for successfully working in the healthcare industry.
Accredited Physical Therapy Assistant Programs
Earning an associate’s degree at an accredited college is vital to providing students with correct, relevant knowledge in the physical therapy field. Various educational programs are available at colleges, business schools, vocational institutes, and online schools for aspiring PTAs to choose from, but not all institutions offer the same level of quality a student needs to become a successful PTA.
Enrolling into a college that has been accredited through a governing association will allow students to obtain the best education and information available in this field, which is presented in a format to best prepare PTAs for licensure and testing. Accredited physical therapy assistant programs ensure students are up to date on any current pertinent information, including medical standards, laws, and physical therapy techniques. PTA courses will teach students how to:
- Work directly with a physical therapist in a legal, ethical, effective, and safe manner.
- Implement comprehensive treatment plans that are developed by the physical therapist.
- Interact with patients and provide psychosocial support, understanding cultural and socioeconomic differences.
- Understand the levels of authority and responsibility associated with physical therapy, including performance evaluations, supervisory processes, time management, and planning and developing.
While aspiring physical therapy assistants can obtain their education through a non-accredited college, employers are more apt to hire someone who has had PTA training through an accredited program. If students wish to advance their career options in the future by earning a degree in physical therapy (PT), attending an accredited college ensures all credits will count towards the new degree.
Recognizing Accredited PTA Programs
Because a career as a PTA requires extensive knowledge of physical therapy procedures and techniques, students need to enroll in an accredited college that has a fully trained staff and fully equipped classrooms and labs. Most colleges will inform potential students of the school’s accreditation via their website and course information material. For PTA programs that do not clearly specify their accreditation, students can acquire this information through the accreditation organization.
The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) is the nationally recognized organization that accredits and monitors courses for PTA education. By attending an accredited college, aspiring PTAs are assured access to the greatest clinical and instructional experiences. Currently, the CAPTE has accredited approximately 211 physical therapy programs, and students can earn their PTA title upon completion of a licensing exam.
Enrollment and Acceptance in PTA Programs
Enrollment in physical therapy assistant programs tends to be limited, with many accredited programs receiving more candidates than can be accepted. Acceptance in top-accredited colleges usually involves many qualifications, including:
- High academic scores
- Completion of courses in math, English, and the sciences
- Numerous hours of clinical observation and volunteer work
Accredited PTA Advanced Programs
Because the physical therapy industry covers a vast body of knowledge, many PTAs choose to specialize in a specific sector of the healthcare industry. Undergoing further training to obtain a higher-paying position at a hospital, clinic, or other healthcare organization, physical therapy assistants can hone their PT skills through an advanced program.
- Cardiovascular and pulmonary: Physical therapy assistants assist patients undergoing cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation, treating cardiopulmonary disorders or surgery rehabilitation. PTAs will help increase patients’ functional independence and endurance.
- Clinical electrophysiology: PTAs assists physical therapists with the management of electrotherapy/physical agents, physical agents, electrophysiology evaluations, and wounds.
- Geriatric: Focusing on the treatment of older patients, physical therapy assistants assist with the rehabilitation of aging conditions, such as arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, balance disorders, hip and joint replacement, Alzheimer’s disease, and incontinence.
- Integumentary: Treating conditions of the skin and related organs, PTAs manage patients’ burns and wounds, utilizing surgical instruments, dressings, mechanical lavage, and topical agents to promote tissue healing by debriding the necrotic tissue. Physical therapy assistants can implement other techniques, including edema control, exercise, compression garments, and splinting, to aid in the healing process.
- Neurological: Physical therapy assistants focus on the treatment of patients struggling with neurological disorders or diseases, such as brain injuries, cerebral palsy, strokes, and spinal cord injuries. Physiotherapy addresses the impairments associated with the disorders and diseases, aiding in the restoration and maintenance of mobility, disease progression, and quality of life
- Orthopedic: PTAs will assist physical therapists in the diagnosis, management, and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries, including spinal conditions, sprains, back and pain, and amputations. Physical therapy assistants aid in the treatment process, utilizing spine mobilization or manipulation, dry needling, neuromuscular reeducation, therapeutic exercise, and electrical muscle stimulation.
- Pediatric: Assisting physical therapists with the early detection of health issues, PTAs help diagnose, treat, and manage developmental, skeletal, neuromuscular, and acquired diseases or disorders in infants, children, and adolescents. Physical therapy assistants help improve the patient’s gross and fine motor skills, strength and endurance, sensory and cognitive processing, and balance and coordination.
- Sports: Physical therapy assistants aid in the treatment and care of recreational and professional athletes. Treatment includes acute care, treatment, rehabilitation, prevention, and education of athletic injuries.
- Women’s health: PTAs assist physical therapists with health issues related to post-partum depression and child birth. Conditions may include osteoporosis, lymphedema, urinary incontinence, prenatal and post-partum periods, and pelvic pain.