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Physical Therapy Aides

Education and Training: High school diploma
Average Salary: $23,770 per year
Job Outlook: Good

A physical therapy aide helps physical therapists in providing treatment to patients to improve their mobility, reduce their pain, and lessen physical disabilities.
The primary objective of a physical therapy aide is to make the therapy session productive. Physical therapy aides work under the supervision of physical therapists or physical therapy assistants. They are responsible for keeping the treatment area clean, sanitized, and organized and prepare it before each patient’s therapy session. Physical therapy aides also help in the movement of patients needing assistance, by pushing them in a wheelchair or providing them with their shoulders to lean on.
Physical therapy aides do not have the license to perform clinical tasks. Therefore, they are often required to perform certain clerical tasks such as answering the phone, filling patient forms, and taking stock of inventory or depleted supplies.
Other responsibilities performed by physical therapy aides are disinfecting equipment after treatment, administering therapeutic massage, helping with manual therapeutic exercise, and recording patient information such as treatment given and equipment used. Physical therapy aides are also required to change linens and secure patients onto the therapy equipment. At times, physical therapy aides also instruct, motivate, and assist patients practicing exercises under the supervision of senior medical staff.

Education and Training Requirements

Physical therapy aides need to have a high school diploma. In most cases, they are offered on-the-job training.

Getting the Job

To get a job as a physical therapy aide, it is recommended to undergo a short course in physical therapy and physical fitness. Prior experience in handling medical equipment such as blood pressure cuffs, hydraulic lifts, and therapeutic heating and cooling pads is beneficial. Basic computer skills are also advisable to get a job as a physical therapy aide.
Physical therapy aides need to be well-organized, detail-oriented, and willing to help others. Physical therapy aides work in close collaboration with physical therapists and therapy assistants. Therefore, they need to be good team players and must have a knack for taking directions and working well in a team atmosphere.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

The job prospects for physical therapy aides are very good and employment opportunities are expected to grow by 30% for 2008-2018. An aging population and better survival rates for patients suffering from various traumatic events and congenital disorders will fuel the demand for physical therapy aides. More and more people are now opting for physical therapy sessions to alleviate their recurring joint pains and similar conditions.
Physical therapy aides are likely to face tough competition for getting the job owing to the presence of a large pool of qualified job applicants. Therefore it is necessary for physical therapy aides to enhance their educational skills by enrolling in various accredited programs for physical therapy.
Physical therapy aides can advance in their careers by moving over to supervisory roles. They can even get trained as physical therapy assistants.

Working Conditions and Environment

The work conditions for physical therapy aides can be demanding and they need to be physically tough to withstand the exertion required in assisting patients. They might even be required to lift patients. They need to frequently stoop, bend, stand, and stretch as part of their daily routine. Some physical therapists need to work during evenings or weekends to accommodate specific patients’ requests.

Salary and Benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median salaries for physical therapy aides was $23,770 in May 2008. An entry-level physical therapy aide can expect to earn approximately $17,270 per year.

Where to Go for More Information

American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
9700 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200
Rosemont, Illinois 60018
(847) 737-6000

American Physical Therapy Association
1111 North Fairfax St.
Alexandria, VA 22314-1488
(703) 684-2782

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