Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) assist patients with physical therapy procedures and other assigned tasks as directed by the physical therapist who supervises them. PTAs help patients and clients with movement difficulties, with the goal being to improve the quality of life. PTAs may assist patients who suffer from difficulty moving due to disease or injury.
The physical therapist assistant is expected to work closely with the physical therapist. He or she will assist patients, under the supervision of the physical therapist, with treatments designed to achieve the following goals:
Prevent or minimize permanent physical disability
Promote wellness and overall fitness
Common types of patients or clients that the physical therapist assistant may work with include:
Victims of accidents
Individuals stricken with short- and long-term disabling conditions
Patients suffering low back pain
Victims of fractures
Patients with head injuries
Patients with heart disease
Adults and children with cerebral palsy
A PTA must be able to be physical for many hours to help their patients as needed. They must be able to bend, twist, lift, crouch, kneel, push/pull, and the agility to move quickly and ensure patient safety.
Must be able to collect and integrate patient histories to solve problems and develop treatments.
Must be able to handle the emotional stress of working with impaired patients in need of compassionate health care.
The ability to prioritize and manage multiple tasks simultaneously.
Must be able to interact with patients and their families regardless of background.
Must be able to apply facts and principles to issues to determine conclusions and solve problems. They must use knowledge and logic to find patters in injuries and determine causes and provide solutions.
Must be able to clearly convey thoughts and ideas to gauge patient's issues and convey to them the best path to treatment.
Must be compassionate and able to empathize with a patient's pain and other difficulties. They are able to make people feel comfortable and meet them at their emotional level to humanize themselves and let people know they care.
They must understand it takes time to see results and be willing to put in that time. They also must help their clients have patience--especially if they are trying to overcome a difficult injury.
Must be able to use knowledge to gauge issues and determine the best route to recovery.
Must work well with your hands and be nimble. You will be put in situations where physical therapy is a must.
PTAs may find opportunities for employment in any of the following range of settings:
Outpatient clinics that provide physical therapy
Short- and long-term skilled nursing facilities
Public, governmental and private hospitals
Home health providers
Public and private schools
Fitness and sports centers
Assisted living facilities
Although work hours can vary depending on the setting, most PTAs work a Monday through Friday schedule. Most hospitals and skilled nursing facilities work with reduced coverage on weekends and holidays. Evening and weekend hours are offered to accommodate patients’ schedules in many outpatient physical therapy settings.
The physical therapist assistant job can be physically demanding. PTAs are expected to walk, kneel, stoop, crouch, lift and stand on their feet for long periods of time. Physical therapist assistants may also be required to move heavy equipment and lift patients. They are also expected to help patients turn, stand or walk.
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