Home Jobs & Education What Does A Physical Therapist Assistant Do?

physical-therapist-assistant-2What do physical therapist assistants do? Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) provide treatment for patients that have suffered injuries or illnesses in order to improve their movement and relieve their pain.

Under the supervision of a physical therapist, they are an important part of the rehabilitation and treatment team of health care professionals. They directly work with patients of all ages that have problems resulting from back injuries, sprains, fractures, cerebral palsy, head injuries, heart diseases, amputations, arthritis, sports injuries, and many other conditions.

Physical therapist assistants utilize a variety of techniques called modalities to care for patients, including hands-on stimulation, heat therapy, and assistive devices.

Physical Therapist Assistant Duties:

  • Observe patients’ movements, review their medical histories, and listen to their medical concerns before reporting findings to the physical therapist
  • Ease patients’ pain and increase their movement abilities through exercises, massages, stretching maneuvers, and specialized assistive medical equipment
  • Maintain records of patients’ progress and note the patients’ statuses to the physical therapist
  • Teach patients and their families how to cope with the medical condition and what to expect from recovery from the illness or injury

Physical therapist assistants may work in clinics, hospitals, schools, schools, sports training facilities, hospices, residential facilities, or nursing homes. Some also find employment in an inpatient rehabilitation centers, where they provide intensive therapy to patients that need to improve functioning before returning home following a serious injury or illness.

Those in hospital settings usually work with the physical therapist to treat patients that have recently undergone surgeries, or have suffered a stroke and other neurological events. Some specialize in one population or type of care, such as pediatrics, gerontology, or sports injury physical therapy.

The physical therapist assistant job description varies depending on the type of patients that they serve and the physical therapist they work with. For example, patients that are recovering from a sports injury require completely different care techniques than patients suffering the detrimental effects of Parkinson’s disease.

In addition to working under the direction of a physical therapist, assistants may consult with other members of the rehabilitation treatment team, including physicians and nurses. Physical therapist assistants must be compassionate and detail-oriented, while also possessing strong interpersonal and analytic skills. In most states, physical therapist assistants must be licensed because they are involved with direct patient care. Employment for physical therapist assistants is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations due to increasing need for physical therapy services.


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