Work Settings and Job Outlook for Physical Therapist AssistantsAugust 4, 2016
Typical Day of a Physical Therapist Assistant
The physical therapist assistant works closely with a supervising physical therapist to provide quality, evidence-based patient/client care. Once the physical therapist has completed the patient examination and a diagnosis has been determined, the physical therapist designs a plan of care that includes short- and long-term functional goals. The physical therapist may choose to provide all of the interventions (treatment) or utilize a PTA to provide some or all of the interventions identified in the plan of care. Interventions that a PTA may perform includes, but is not limited to, therapeutic exercise, traction, massage, ultrasound, electrotherapy, balance and gait training, motor learning and development, and patient and family education. Interventions will often include the use of assistive and adaptive devices such as crutches, wheelchairs, orthotics, and prosthetics. An important component of patient interventions involves teaching the patient appropriate ways to move or perform particular tasks to prevent further injury and to promote health and wellness.
PTAs also provide the physical therapist with information about the patient's response to treatment, including objective data documented in the patient's medical record. PTAs are trained to respond to emergency situations in the clinical environment.
In addition to patient/client care, PTAs often participate in activities related to billing and coding, quality improvement, risk management, and other administrative activities within the department or facility.
There is a high demand for physical therapist assistants in the workforce despite the economic downturn. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physical therapists is expected to grow by 35 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. The need for PTAs is expected to increase into the foreseeable future as the U.S. population ages and the demand for physical therapy services grows.
More than 68,000 physical therapist assistants are licensed in the U.S. today. The median salary for a physical therapist is $45,000 depending on position, years of experience, degree of education, geographic location, and practice setting. (Source: APTA 2009 Median Income of Physical Therapist Assistants Summary Report.)
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