Career Story: Physical Therapy Assistant In An Outpatient Clinic

Physical Therapy Assistant In An Outpatient Clinic

Job Title: Physical Therapy Assistant

Type of Company: I work as a physical therapy assistant in an outpatient clinic.

Education: BS, Newbury College (Brookline, MA) •• BA, Southeastern Massachusetts University (New Bedford, MA)

Previous Experience: I had no previous experience in the medical field. I was in retail work and decided I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life, so I went back to school evenings while also working at my retail job

Job Tasks: I work as a physical therapy assistant in an outpatient clinic. I can do just about any treatments that a physical therapist can do. The P. T. does an initial evaluation, testing strength and range of motion and making a functional assessment of the patient. (Can he climb stairs, get up/down from a chair without assistance, perform household activities or do his job? How much pain does he have?) Then the P.T. sets up a treatment plan and I can work with the patient to regain range of motion, establish an exercise program, use modalities such as heat, ice, massage, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and traction. I write a weekly note about the patient's progress toward goals the therapist has set, recording his current range of motion and strength. After a month of treatment, the P.T does a re-evaluation and if the patient still needs work we try to get more visits for him.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is helping to relieve a patient's pain and getting him back to his normal lifestyle. The worst part is the paperwork and dealing with insurance companies and, with my company anyhow, seeing a different patient every 30 minutes. Thanks to overbooking, you can sometimes have as many as three people there at the same time.

Job Tips: Get a good background in medical terminology, anatomy and physiology and plenty of practice with massage.

Additional Thoughts: What has surprised me most in the medical field is the effect insurance companies have had on how hospitals, doctors and therapists are allowed to treat patients. Lots of patients expect to come to therapy and experience more pain. At times, this is true -- especially when we are trying to get more motion with knee replacements or "frozen shoulders" -- but it's not as common as a lot of people think and we do try to make the patient as comfortable as we can with modalities after the treatment.

I wish I had started in this line of work directly out of high school. I started when I was older (late 30's), but if I'd started earlier I would have probably gone on to be a physical therapist instead of an assistant. I do enjoy the assistant position because I don't have half as much paperwork as the P.T. There are usually plenty of jobs in this field.

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