Physical Therapy Aide
What is a Physical Therapy Aide and how do I become one? Explore educational and training programs for PT Aides, who assist physical therapists and work closely with patients.
Why Physical Therapy Aides are a Great Career
Physical therapy is a rewarding and challenging field for many. Physical therapists and their staff make a real difference in the life of patients who seek relief from pain, disabilities, the after-effects of surgeries and the symptoms of advancing age. Patients undergo treatments that make their conditions more manageable with the goal to improve their quality of life.
Physical Therapist Aides
Physical therapist aides assist a physical therapist or a physical therapist assistant. They play a key role in performing selected duties and tasks that support the physical therapist and physical therapist assistant. Individuals considering becoming a physical therapy aide will benefit from having well-developed organizational skills, strong interpersonal skills and a sharp listening ability. Physical therapy aides also need to be able to read and write effectively, communicate information clearly and have a personality that gravitates toward detail in their work and caring service to patients. One more important requirement is physical strength, as physical therapy aids may need to help lift patients and will spend a good amount of time bending, kneeling and carrying equipment.
Helping Those in Need
A physical therapy aide works very closely with patients, helping prepare them and take them through their treatments. Physical therapy aides chat with patients and help them enjoy a positive, motivating environment. One of the most important qualities of a physical therapy aide is a caring personality and a passion for helping people. One of the rewarding benefits of the job is seeing patients come into the office with pain or other issues, and seeing them leave the office in better condition and feeling more comfortable. Many patients are relieved to be in the hands of a caring, knowledgeable staff.
Physical therapy aides typically work part-time hours, and many employers offer flexible scheduling. Most offices providing services are open evenings and weekends to work with patients that cannot make it in during the day on weekdays. Hospitals may offer daytime hours.
A Day on the Job
About 71 percent of physical therapy aides work in a physical therapy office or hospital. The remaining percent work in physician offices, nursing facilities, outpatient care centers and home health care. The physical therapy aide welcomes patients by preparing treatment rooms. He or she makes sure the right therapy equipment is in each treatment room and assists the physical therapist or physical therapist assistant in serving the patientís needs. Physical therapy aides are responsible for making sure to clean, prepare and organize the treatment room for the next patient. Physical therapy aides may lend a shoulder or hand to help clients walk in and out of the treatment room, or push a patientís wheelchair and help them into and out of the treatment room. Physical therapy aides also help make sure the clerical work gets done, answering the phones, getting insurance forms completed and stocking up on necessary supplies. In some offices, physical therapy aides may need to perform additional duties. The American Physical Therapy Association publishes educational information describing the duties of physical therapy aides as it pertains to issues such as Medicare billing and the requirements of supervision by a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant while performing certain types of work.
The physical therapy aide field is forecasted to grow approximately 35 percent through 2018, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is in large part due to the aging baby-boomer population. Improvements in medicine and patient care have also helped many people survive trauma that may require intermittent or ongoing physical therapy. Insurance reimbursement restrictions have also changed, allowing more patients to seek care.
How Much Can I Earn?
Wages range slightly depending on the type of facility that employs the physical therapy aide. The average annual wage for physical therapy aides as of May 2010 was $25,000 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The mean hourly wage was $25.00. The offices of health practitioners such as chiropractors and occupational therapists provide the largest number of physical therapy aide jobs. The highest paying positions, though, exist in home health care services, with an annual mean wage of $32,950. Broken down by state, the highest earners work in California, Texas, New Jersey, New York and Florida while New Jersey has the highest number of jobs.
Physical therapy aides need to have a high school diploma. The good news is that physical therapy aide jobs are entry level and much of the education necessary to become a physical therapy aide is on-the-job training and learning. Physical therapy aides have the chance to work closely with and have direct supervision from physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. Some schools do offer training programs for physical therapy aides, and each person should evaluate his or her situation to see if formal schooling is necessary, or if on-the-job training will teach them everything they need. A physical therapy aide job is an excellent way to get involved in the physical therapy field while you are deciding if you would like to sign up for an associate degree program to become a physical therapy assistant or work towards completing the educational requirements to become a physical therapist.
Finding the Right Training Program for You
Physical therapy aide jobs are definitely growing in number, but competition is challenging since there are large numbers of qualified applicants. Only you can say whether a physical therapy aide-schooling program is for you. Speak to schools that offer job placement, find out the costs, ask for statistics on how many students get jobs after graduating from the program and with what types of employers. The right training program might just as easily start with a receptionist job in a physical therapy office that develops into a physical therapy aide position.