Physical Therapy Assistants
For people who enjoy moving around during the workday, interacting with people and other healthcare professionals, and working on teams, becoming a physical therapy assistant (PTA) might be a good option for you.
This occupation is expected to be high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, PTA is ranked eighth in the list of 30 occupations with the projected fastest employment growth between 2010 and 2020. PTAs work in hospitals, home health care, physical therapy and rehabilitation organizations, health centers, and doctor’s office to name a few examples.
Physical therapy, which uses exercise, heat or cold therapy, or massage to help patients improve mobility and function, and decrease pain, is an important treatment option in healthcare. While physical therapy is commonly used after certain surgeries, trauma, or stroke to help patients restore lost functions, physical therapy is also used in many other situations. A vital part of the team of people who provide physical therapy services to patients is the physical therapy assistant.
A physical therapy assistant works under the supervision of a physical therapist (PT) to implement a treatment plan. PTAs teach patients how to perform specific exercises, offer gait and balance training, provide massage therapy, and apply electrical stimulation as part of the treatment plan. In addition to these duties, because PTAs spend a great deal of time with patients, they often act as a catalyst to motivate patients to complete exercises while at home, which is important to the success of many treatment plans. Documentation of a patient’s response and compliance with a treatment plan is also important to the work of PTAs.
To become a licensed PTA in New York State, earning an associate’s degree by completing a two-year registered or accredited PTA program and passing the National PTA examination are required. PTAs who are educated and trained outside of the United States also have a path to licensure. For additional information about licensure, please review the information that is posted on the New York State Education Department Office of Professions website.
PTAs provide extremely valuable, direct services to patients. When patients are able to regain mobility, avoid future injury, and find pain relief from completing the physical therapy plan, they often thank the work of physical therapy assistants. In many, many cases, this is truly rewarding work!
Jenny Tsang-Quinn M.D. is the Executive Director for the New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (NYACH). At NYACH, Jenny is overseeing a project that engages healthcare employers in the analysis of current and future labor force needs and partners with workforce training organizations to meet those needs.
On the 2nd Friday of each month, Jenny will share advice and insight on jobs in the healthcare industry. If you have a question or comment for Jenny, drop her a note below. And, don’t forget to share this with your friends on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.