A Crash Course on Physical Therapy Aides

PTAPhysical therapy is one of a number of medical fields in which employment and demand for employment is increasing. Physical therapists, and those who work under their supervision, are an integral part of a patient’s physical rehabilitation process.

Whether it is an illness or a substantial bodily injury that has impaired the body’s function, physical therapists are trained to help patients regain comfort and mobility they enjoyed prior to their afflictions. While physical therapists are highly skilled healthcare professionals, they do need help with the daily operations of offices, clinics and hospitals.

This is where a seemingly lesser-known member of the healthcare field comes into play: physical therapy aides. Physical therapy aides help physical therapists and other therapists with both administrative and patient care tasks.

Physical therapy aides play a similar role to physical therapists that other healthcare support workers in other fields play to their respective doctors. They handle the tasks that make patient visits possible and ones that the doctor(s) cannot do by themselves simply by virtue of the limitations of time and space.

Many people may not know what exactly a physical therapy aide does or how it is different from a physical therapy assistant. This post is designed to serve as a rundown of basic information about physical therapy aides.

We will cover topics such as what they do, what the future looks like and the kind of education and training needed to get into the field.

What do they do?

Like other healthcare support professionals, physical therapy aides perform tasks that are necessary to the function of their employer’s business. They are trained to complete clinical and administrative tasks in nursing facilities, physical therapist offices, hospitals and other settings.

Physical therapy aides are crucial cogs in the well-oiled machines that are therapists’ offices, clinics and hospitals. Among the common duties that physical therapy aides fulfill include:

  • Cleaning treatment areas and equipment
  • Escorting patients through the office or facility
  • Ordering supplies
  • Scheduling patient appointments
  • Filling out insurance forms

Fifty-five percent of physical therapy aides are employed in therapists’ offices. Such therapists include occupational therapists and speech therapists, not just physical therapists. Physical therapy aides play a pivotal role in the functioning of therapists’ offices.

The tasks that physical therapy aides are eligible to complete differ by the state in which they are employed.

Are physical therapy aides the same as physical therapy assistants?

Though the two positions’ titles may sound synonymous and share the PTA acronym, there are significant differences between physical therapy aides and assistants.

Physical therapy aides work under supervision of physical therapy assistants. A physical therapy assistant’s job consists of more patient care duties, such as teaching patients exercises, treating patients with various techniques and implementing the use of equipment in patient treatment.

Physical therapy aides, on the other hand, handle administrative tasks in addition to patient care preparation. It is important that both aides and assistants have knowledge of proper lifting techniques, as they may frequently need to lift patients up. Such techniques can help prevent back injuries, which are common within the occupation.

Physical therapy aides can enter the workforce sooner than physical therapy assistants because assistants are required to complete an associate’s degree program at the minimum before beginning to work.

What is the job outlook for the near future?

Similar to many occupations within the healthcare field at the present time, the physical therapy aide job market is quite fertile, and that is expected to be the case into the future.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist aide positions are projected to increase by 39 percent through 2024 relative to 2014. There are expected to have been approximately 20,000 jobs created in the field by the time the decade span comes to a close.

The BLS attributes this rise in demand to the aging of the baby boomer population, in addition to the increasing prevalence of diseases that hinder one’s mobility, such as obesity and diabetes.

Job prospects are anticipated to be especially promising in settings involving geriatric patients and in rural localities away from the crowded urban squall.

Taking all things into account, there is no time like the present to board the gravy train that is the physical therapy aide occupation.

What is the pay like?

The wages for physical therapy aides are quite comparable to other healthcare support occupations. The median salary of physical therapy aides was $25,680 as of May 2016, according to data from the BLS.

As with most other occupations, salaries fluctuate based on geographical location, in addition to work setting. For example, physical therapy aides who work in nursing facilities and hospitals earn the most money of the settings in which physical therapy aides work.

Given the relatively short time needed to complete an education in the field, becoming a physical therapy aide allows students to begin making money fairly soon, compared to other occupations.

What kind of education do I need?

Most employers looking to hire physical therapy aides only ask that candidates have a high school diploma. Entry-level physical therapy aides receive training on the job regardless of whether they have a certificate from a training program.

However, training programs provide students with a foundation of physical therapy skills and knowledge prior to entering the field. This knowledge awards program graduates with a leg up on their fellow physical therapy aide candidates who come in without prior knowledge.

Most physical therapy aide training programs can be completed in less than a year and effectively prepare students to work in the healthcare field as physical therapy aides. Achieving a certificate can go a long way toward candidates being the best physical therapy aides they can be as soon as possible.

As touched upon in the outlook portion of this post, the physical therapy aide field is a healthy and growing one. Additionally, the low barrier of entry into the field fosters more competition among applicants for physical therapy aide positions.

That being said, aspiring physical therapy aides would be wise to enroll in a training program at a local trade school or community college before seeking entry-level employment.

Now that you are practically an expert on the topic of physical therapy aid, perhaps you are considering a career in the field. You would be making a great choice in doing so, and the next step would be continuing your education.

Begin your physical therapy aide career with the Summit Difference

A quality physical therapy aide training program can help you distinguish yourself from other physical therapy aides in the eyes of prospective employers. In Summit College’s Physical Therapy Aide program, students learn the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively assist physical therapists across the country.

Summit College offers its physical therapy aide program at its Colton campus. Day and night class options are designed to give students the flexibility to schedule classes around other obligations they may have.

The physical therapy aide program takes 34 weeks to finish, which allows students to enter the field in a shorter length of time compared to their four-year college counterparts.

Summit College’s Physical Therapy Aide program is taught by instructors who know what it’s like to work in physical therapy. Summit’s instructors have years of real-world, practical experience that they use to help students be the best physical therapy aides they can at the end of the program.

They will guide students in both classroom and laboratory coursework at Summit’s modern facilities, providing them with the needed individual attention along the way.

In Summit’s Physical Therapy Aide program, you will acquire an abundance of skills and knowledge pertinent to physical therapy. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Mobility and immobility
  • Functions of the body
  • Medical terminology
  • Patient service and communication

In addition to these skills and topics, the Summit College Physical Therapy Aide program curriculum consists of courses in subjects such as patient preparation, therapeutic exercises and physical therapy treatments.

At the completion of Summit College’s Physical Therapy Aide program, you will have the skills and knowledge you need to enter the workforce as a physical therapy aide. Physical therapy aides typically receive further training on the job, though they are compensated while they learn more skills.

Summit College offers its students career assistance resources, including résumé help, mock interviews and externships. This wealth of resources can help physical therapy aides capitalize on the occupation’s plentiful employment opportunities.

In California, physical therapy aides made a median salary of $27,640 in 2015, according to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). This median is roughly $2,000 more than the national median physical therapy aide salary.

Physical therapy aides can serve a crucial role in the physical rehabilitation of millions of people each year. You can stand out in the physical therapy aide crowd by completing a top-notch training program like the one at Summit College.

What are you waiting for? Discover the Summit Difference. Get started today at summitcollege.edu.