So you want to become a physical therapist assistant? This sure is a great choice for a new career. If you have a high school diploma and the desire to help others improve or maintain their ability to function independently then becoming a physical therapist assistant (PTA) just might be in the cards for you.
Physical therapy has become a large part of medical care nowadays and there’s not a doubt that the need is out there for people like you to become trained in this field because physical therapists can’t do it all themselves. (I’ll let you in on a secret, some think they can but make no mistake, they need us PTAs!)
Yea I know what you might be thinking right now; how is it there can be so many people with sports injuries when there are so many messages coming at us about participating safely in sports? The answer is elementary my dear friend! Physical therapy isn’t just an exclusive medical club in which only athletes can get into for treatment. This is an area of treatment that has proven to help others with many ailments even asthma and incontinence.
In a nutshell a physical therapist and his or her assistant provide services that help patients who have a disease or are injured. They can:
- Relieve pain,
- Limit permanent disabilities,
- Prevent permanent disabilities,
- Improves mobility; and
- Restores function.
Bottom line, restoring, maintaining and promoting good health and general fitness for others is what you’ll be a part of when you become a physical therapist assistant.
Ok, so it isn’t always this way either. Your duties just might include answering the phones. Oh yea, but it isn’t all that bad because variety is the spice of life. This is a job that not only gives you a variety of things to do but it’s rewarding because you know you’re helping people and that’s important.
You may be required to watch patients perform their exercises, supplying them with what is needed such as a wheelchair or crutches, and you may even need to clean equipment as well as gather supplies as needed. Oh sure it isn’t always glamorous but the pros by far outweigh any cons.
Physical therapy assistants work with (of course) a physical therapist to provide the services needed that is set out by the physical therapist in what is called a plan of care. On the road to becoming a PTA you will earn an associate degree and yes, there is an examination at the very end you need to write known as the national licensure exam. I hear you, exams suck, but this one isn’t that bad and the rewards are endless.
This is not a career for everyone! You need to ask yourself:
- Am I a patient person? (Waiting in lines don’t count.)
- Do I listen well to others? (People who count that is.)
- Do I truly care for the welfare of others?
- Am I a supportive type of person?
- Do I encourage others to help boost their confidence?
You’ve answered yes to all of these and that means you’re off to a good start because your personality-type will make or break how well you can succeed in this field. (Not to mention you want to be happy on the job.) You’re probably wondering but what else should you know about becoming a PTA? Take a good look at yourself and see if you can see these skills in yourself:
- Good level of physical and mental fitness,
- Excellent observation and organizational skills,
- Work well on your own or as a team player,
- Great interpersonal skills,
- Super oral and written skills,
- Manual dexterity, and
- Strength and energy!
Alright, so you’re amazingly confident now that becoming a physical therapist assistant is perfect for you. Yee haw! The next step is that you need to apply to a school or program that has an accredited physical therapist assistant degree.
Do your homework because you want to be sure that the school you choose is reputable and you won’t end up with a worthless piece of paper that comes out of a Cracker Jack box; you want credentials.
Working as a physical therapist assistant does not mean you’re work will always be in a clinic. PTAs are employed in hospitals, continuing care facilities, home care agencies, rehabilitation centers, schools, community agencies and of course physical therapist’s offices and clinics.
Oh yea, one last thing; you can get your license in the state of your choosing. Only Hawaii and Colorado do not require licenses. You can take either the National Physical Therapy Exam or a state chosen exam.
There you have it; you are now officially well on the way to becoming a physical therapist assistant!
Lisa Doherty has been a physical therapy assistant for quite some time and she loves spreading the good word about her profession. When she’s not busy helping people at work, Lisa enjoys hiking in the woods with her Beagle, reading fantasy novels and going out with friends.