What is a Physical Therapist Assistant?

A physical therapist assistant (PTA) is someone who performs components of physical therapy procedures and related tasks, as directed by a supervising physical therapist. They help patients/clients who have movement difficulties due to injury or disease. Physical therapist assistants do this by assisting the physical therapist with therapies designed to improve the patient's mobility, relieve their pain, prevent or limit permanent physical disability, and promote overall fitness and well-being. Patients may include accident victims, as well as individuals with short- and long-term conditions (such as low back pain, fractures, head injuries, arthritis, heart disease, and cerebral palsy).

What does a Physical Therapist Assistant do?

A physical therapist assistant (PTA) is someone who performs components of physical therapy procedures and related tasks, as directed by a supervising physical therapist.

A physical therapist assistant works as part of a team to provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist. Physical therapist assistants treat individuals of all ages, from newborns to the very oldest, who have movement difficulties due to injury or disease that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. Care provided by an assistant may include teaching patients/clients exercise for mobility, strength and coordination, training for activities such as walking with crutches, canes, or walkers, massage, and the use of physical agents and electrotherapy such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation.

The physical therapist is responsible for the services provided by the assistant. Physical therapists examine each individual and develop a plan using treatment therapies to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. They also work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles. The physical therapist may choose to utilize a physical therapist assistant in the provision of certain components of the physical therapy treatment. The physical therapist, assistant, and the patient/client then work side-by-side to make sure that the goals of the plan or care are met.

Are you suited to be a physical therapist assistant?

Physical therapist assistants have distinct personalities. They tend to be social individuals, which means they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly. They excel at socializing, helping others, and teaching. Some of them are also investigative, meaning they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if physical therapist assistant is one of your top career matches.

Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of a Physical Therapist Assistant like?

Physical therapist assistants work in a variety of settings including outpatient physical therapy clinics, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, rehabilitation centres, home health agencies, schools, and sports and fitness facilities. Most assistants work Monday through Friday, although work hours may vary, depending on the facility and employment status. For example, most hospitals and skilled nursing facilities provide reduced coverage on weekends and many outpatient physical therapy offices and clinics have evening and weekend hours to accommodate patients' schedules.

This job can be physically demanding because physical therapist assistants often have to walk, stoop, kneel, crouch, lift, and stand for long periods of time. In addition, they may be required to move heavy equipment and lift patients or help them to turn, stand, or walk.

Frequently Asked Questions

Steps to becoming a Physical Therapist Assistant

The road to becoming a physical therapist assistant (PTA) starts with an early, keen interest in the workings of the human body and continues through a career-long commitment to learning and understanding its capacities.

Should I become a Physical Therapist Assistant?

Through their training, of course, physical therapist assistants must cultivate knowledge of computer programs such as Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access or FileMaker Pro, bookkeeping software, and medical software like TherAssist and BioEX Systems Exercise Pro. They need to become comfortable working with therapy equipment including walkers, chair lifts, patient care beds, therapeutic balls, and prosthetic devices.

While these specific and learnable skills are critical to their role, PTAs also require stamina to stand for long periods, as well as the strength and manual dexterity to lift and move patients. In addition to these physical demands, the job calls for a particular emotional intelligence. Physical therapy patients must often deal with challenging situations and the emotions brought on by their condition or injury. The capacities to communicate and be compassionate will go a long way in connecting with patients, in helping them to improve their outlook, and in contributing to their healing and recovery.

How long does it take to become a Physical Therapist Assistant?

In most cases, it takes two years to complete a physical therapist assistant program. It may take additional time to pass the National Physical Therapist Assistant Examination and receive a state license.

What are Physical Therapist Assistants like?

Based on our pool of users, physical therapist assistants tend to be predominately investigative people. And no wonder! Investigation is vital to the work of PTAs. They observe patients before, during, and after therapy. Using the evidence they gather and their intricate understanding of the human body, they prudently integrate stretching, exercise, and massage to reduce pain, build physical strength, and improve mobility

Physical Therapist Assistants are also known as:
Certified Physical Therapist Assistant Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant Physical Therapy Assistant