Working Conditions For Physical Therapist Assistants -Physical Therapist Assistant Career Guide
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Working Conditions For Physical Therapist Assistants

In this healthcare sector, physical therapy is a vital component of any full-spectrum course of medical care.

Whether it is to assist the victims of traumatic accidents to regain their full physical capabilities or to ensure the long-term health and wellbeing of the elderly, the demand for skilled physical therapists and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) is showing robust and sustained growth.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 71,000 PTAs who are currently employed in the United States.

In addition, the BLS estimates that the number of open jobs for PTAs will increase by about 41 percent between until 2022, resulting in over 100,000 open jobs by 2022. Job attrition due to retirement and other causes will ensure that many currently filled positions will require new PTAs, further improving the job opportunities for newly graduated PTAs.

Becoming a PTA

pta q and qCurrently, all states require all practicing PTA to be licensed or registered by the state’s regulatory agency. In most cases, PTAs must complete the following actions before they can become licensed state PTAs:

  • Be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or the equivalent.
  • Complete an accredited PTA program.
  • Successfully pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for physical therapy assistants. In some states, this test may be known as the National Physical Therapy Assistants Examination (NPTAE).
  • Provide all required paperwork to the state regulatory agency.

In many cases, a PTA will also be required to submit to a criminal background check. Some convictions may render an individual ineligible to practice as a licensed PTA. In other cases, a conviction may not make it impossible to become a licensed PTA, but may require further documentation and proof of suitability for this profession.

For this reason, anyone who has been convicted of a crime, especially if the crime is a felony, involves the use of drugs or involved medical misconduct should contact their state’s regulatory board to determine if they are eligible for licensure.

Working Conditions for PTAs

A PTA works with physicians, registered nurses and physical therapists in order to provide high quality care to those individuals who are currently receiving treatment.

Because specific physical therapy jobs involve widely varying duties, individual PTAs may experience a number of differing job environments.

General Working Conditions

In general, all PTAs will be working with patients under the direction of other medical professionals.

PTAs are not permitted to make diagnoses or plan out a course of physical therapy on their own. Rather, they help implement treatment plans made by their supervisors.

In addition, PTAs must provide detailed reports on their patient’s progress in order to assist the physician or physical therapist in determining whether or not the course of treatment should be modified. Finally, since most patients receive a course of physical therapy that has been tailored for their individual needs, the PTA must be able to accurately carry out a range of treatment plans.

A PTA’s general work conditions will involve the following components:

  • Interacting with fellow medical professionals and patients. The PTA must be able to interact in a professional and polite manner with his or her coworkers and patients.
  • Physically assisting the patient during the course of physical therapy. For example, the PTA may have to help an individual safely move from his or her bed to the wheelchair.
  • Most PTAs will be on their feet for the majority of their duty shift. For this reason, a PTA must be able to remain on his or her feet without becoming fatigued during the course of the day.

Hospital PTAs

PTAs working in a hospital will generally focus on inpatients, or those individuals who are currently receiving treatment at the hospital.

In addition, many hospital PTAs may have other duties, such as working with a hospital lift team and assisting in transporting bedridden patients to and from treatment.

In many cases, PTAs working at a hospital may be required to work non-standard hours, in addition to facing unscheduled overtime.

Outpatient PTAs

Currently, the majority of PTAs work at outpatient treatment centers. These centers focus on those individuals who are being treated by appointment.

PTAs who work at outpatient centers have many of the same duties that all PTAs have, but also enjoy regular work schedules with less in the way of unscheduled overtime.

Many outpatient centers focus on certain types of physical therapy, such as sports medicine or rehabilitation care, which can allow the PTA to focus on various physical therapy specialties.

Doctor’s Offices

Many doctors employ PTAs in their offices. In addition to providing the normal services of a PTA, these individuals may also provide other types of assistance to the doctor.

In smaller offices, a PTA may also work as a receptionist. Some larger offices may place senior PTAs in a supervisory position over other members of the office team.

As with outpatient treatment centers, most PTAs working in a doctor’s office will enjoy regular work hours with little in the way of unplanned overtime.

Convalescent and Eldercare Facilities

Convalescent and eldercare facilities are employing a growing number of PTAs. In these facilities the PTA provides long-term physical therapy for the elderly, both to rectify current health issues and to help stave off the effects of age-related degenerative conditions.

In most cases, these facilities involve long-term treatment plans, especially for elderly individuals who are not expected to return home.

In addition to their normal work conditions, PTAs working in eldercare facilities must be prepared to work with individuals who are suffering from various cognitive disorders such as dementia.

For this reason, the PTA must be prepared to work with individuals who may be frightened, disoriented or non-compliant during their physical therapy session. This requires a great deal of patience on the part of the PTA as well as an understanding of his or her patient’s specific mental issues.

Ultimately becoming a PTA can be an excellent personal and professional choice for those individuals seeking a rewarding and stable career in America’s healthcare sector. By understanding what type of work environment a PTA will face, those individuals who are interested in this career can effectively determine whether or not they would be interested in becoming a PTA.

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