How to Become a Physical Therapist Aide

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Physical therapy is an essential part of the medical field that provides treatment to patients that have suffered from injury, illness, disease, and factors related to aging. It focuses on the development, maintenance, and restoration of physical function and movement. Physical therapist aides are trained workers that assist physical therapists and physical therapist assistants with a variety of physical therapy treatments.

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What does a physical therapist aide do?

Physical therapist aides provide necessary assistance and supportive services to ensure physical therapy sessions are productive and effective. They help with daily activities of patient care and prepare treatment areas. They also clean and sanitize treatment areas and equipment. Physical therapist aides often help transport patients and observe them during treatment procedures. Physical therapist aides also handle clerical tasks such as answering the telephone, restocking and ordering supplies, and filling out paperwork such as patient documentation and insurance forms.

What kind of training does a physical therapist aide need?

Physical therapist aides must have at least a high school diploma. Some physical therapist aides have completed some postsecondary training and others have completed certificate programs. The coursework typically includes medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, physical therapy for common medical conditions, physical therapy techniques, and patient safety. Majority of employers provide extensive on the job training to new physical therapist aides. New physical therapist aides work under the direct supervision of physical therapists or physical therapist assistants. Physical therapist aides must keep their skills current and stay up to date on advancements in the field. They complete continuing education and additional training as needed throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as a physical therapist aide?

Employment of physical therapist aides is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions. Increasing 36% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growing and aging population and increased demand for physical therapy services will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be very good, but with strong competition. Physical therapist aides with advanced training and extensive experience will have the best job opportunities. Numerous job openings will stem from the need to replace physical therapist aides that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do physical therapist aides make?

As of January 2010, the average annual salary for physical therapist aides is $38,000; average annual physical therapist aide salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a physical therapist aide is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in physical therapy and providing the necessary supportive services. Physical therapist aides must have a solid understanding of how the physical therapy environment functions. Physical stamina, detail orientation, good organization, and ability to follow directions are necessary characteristics. Physical therapist aides must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and the desire to assist others. They must be able to work effectively as part of a team.

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