A physical therapist aide works under the direct supervision or direction of a physicaltherapist or physical therapist assistant to support physical therapy treatment. Physicaltherapy treatment entails helping patients that may be accident victims or persons withdisabling conditions. Physical therapist aides perform a variety of functions that mayinclude:
- Keeping physical therapy areas clean and organized
- Preparing physical therapy areas for incoming patients
- Preparing for each patients therapy
- Assisting patients, who are mobility challenged, to or from treatment areas
- Performing minor clerical tasks such as ordering supplies, answering the phone, and filling out paperwork
Physical therapist aides are entry level positions that do not require formal training.Most physical therapist aides receive on-the-job training and clinical training. Duringjob training the physical therapist aide will work with experienced employees from three monthsto a year. Basic requirements are typically a high school diploma and a desire to workwith people. Other skills that are helpful in pursuing a physical therapist aide positioninclude good organizational skills, keen listening skills, reading and writing skills,strong interpersonal skills, the ability to communicate effectively, a detailed orientationas well as a service orientation. While physical therapist assistants may requirelicensure, it is not required for physical therapist aides.
Approximately 72% of physical therapy aides and assistants work in physical therapy facilities orwithin hospitals according to The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. The remainder work in other areas such as nursing facilities, physiciansoffices, home health care services or outpatient care centers. Approximately 28% ofphysical therapist aides and assistants work part time and often physical therapyfacilities offer weekend and evening hours to accomodate the needs of their patients.
The physical therapist aide position requires some strength due to the responsibilitiesof the job. The need to assist and sometimes even lift patients requires the physicaltherapist aide to have moderate strength. In addition, the physical therapist job is aphysical one where the majority of the time is spent standing, stooping, bending, andkneeling.
Employment opportunities in the physical therapy field are growing and at a faster ratethan that of many other occupations. However, given the large pool of qualified applicants forphysical therapy aide positions, persons pursuing this career may have greater competitionfor the jobs available. Forecasted growth for 2008-2018 decade, in physical therapy, is35%. This growth is projected based on a number of factors. First, the elderly populationis growing and will continue to do so as baby boomers age and are more likely to experienceailments that require physical therapy. Moreover, as technology advances and better medicaltreatments become available more trauma patients will survive increasing the need forphysical therapy services.
The income for physical therapist aides averaged between $19,910 and $28,670 annuallyin 2008 and the median annual income for this group was approximately $23,760. In addition, the highest 10 percent earned more than $33,540, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $17,270. Nursingcare facilities provided the highest incomes for physical therapy aides in May of 2008. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of physical therapy aides in May 2008 were as follows:
- $26,530 - Nursing care facilities
- $24,780 - General medical and surgical hospitals
- $24,590 - Specialty (except psychiatric and substance abuse) hospitals
- $23,730 - Offices of physicians
- $22,550 - Offices of other health practitioners
The projected need for physical therapist aides in the 2008-2018 timeframe is expected to grow by an additional 16,700 employees.
Job advancement for physical therapist aides is often to become a physical therapistassistant. This may be achieved by gaining experience within an organization as well asby seeking further education.
Typical Physical Therapy Aides Programs May Include Courses in:
- Body Mechanics
- Common Physical Disorders
- Geriatric Physical Therapy
- Human Anatomy
- Introduction to Medical Terminology
- Introduction to Physical Therapy
- Medical Ethics
- Medical Records and Terminology
- Musculoskeletal System
- Patient Care
- Patient Communication
- Patient Positioning
- Pediatric Physical Therapy
- Physical Therapy Exercises
- Physical Therapy Treatments
- Wheelchairs and Assistive Devices
- Clinical hydraulic ifts or accessories
- Electronic Blood pressure units
- Mercury Blood pressure units
- Theraputic heating or cooling pads or compresses or packs
- Vascular compression apparel or supports
- Calendar and scheduling software
- Medical software
- Spreadsheet software
- Word processing software
Resources for Physical Therapy Aides
- The American Physical TherapyAssociation
- Journal of the American PhysicalTherapy Association
- A World of PhysicalTherapy
- An online professionalnetwork for Physical Therapy
Schools for Physical Therapist Aides are listed in the Browse Schools Section.