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Physical Therapist Assistants: Role and Requirements

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Health
Wordcount: 1609 words Published: 21st Mar 2018

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  • Rodny German Sotolongo


Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are health care providers who work as part of a team to provide physical therapy services under the supervision of licensed therapists. They assist individuals of all ages from young to old who have medical problems that deter them from performing their daily chores. They also teach patients how to exercise in order to enhance their strength and coordination. By use of treatment techniques, they examine individuals to relieve pain, enhance mobility and to restore function of the body. In addition, they develop fitness and wellness- oriented programs for healthier living (American Physical Therapy Assocation, 2015).

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The physical therapist assistant profession has a scope of practice, which is dynamic, growing with evidence, societal needs and education. It has three components, which include professional, jurisdictional and personal (American Physical Therapy Assocation, 2015). The professional scope is defined as a practice that is grounded in the profession’s typical field supported by educational preparation, based on a body of proof, and linked to emerging practice frameworks. The jurisdictional scope of practice is established by a state’s practice act controlling the specific physical therapist’s license, and the regulations adopted should comply with that act. Finally, the personal scope of practice is made up of activities that are undertaken by an individual physical therapist and located within a physical therapist’s exclusive body of knowledge where the individual is trained, educated, and competent to perform that activity.

The physical assistant therapists have codes of ethics, which enhance in defining the ethical principles that form the base of physical therapist practice in client management, consultation, research, and administration. The codes of ethics also provide standards of behavior and performance that form the basis of professional accountability to the public (Curtis, 1999). They include demonstrating integrity in their relationships with clients, families and students. They achieve this by being honest, truthful, accurate and relevant in giving information without exploiting their clients. Physical assistant therapists should also fulfill their legal and professional obligations by obeying the rules and regulations of the state. They should encourage their friends with physical or psychological impairments that may adversely affect their professional responsibilities to seek assistance. Of great significance is that they should participate in all efforts to meet the health needs of people locally, nationally or globally. They can achieve this by providing pro bono physical therapy services or support organizations to meet the health needs of people who are economically disadvantaged (Swisher L, 2010).

One of the requirements for this occupation is an associate’s degree. Many states require licensure after completing an approved degree program. Licensure requires the passage of national and state examination in the field, and these licensure requirements are regulated by Physical Therapy boards. However, most require graduation from an accredited program, must have done some clinical work and a good grade on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Some states also call for applicants to pass separate tests on medical ethics. Apart from the required state license, physical therapists also have a chance to earn voluntary professional certification in specialist areas and credentials are offered by physical therapy professional organizations. The Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) is an important accrediting agency for graduate programs. Accreditation ensures that PT and PTA degree programs maintain particular academic standards and thus will be able to graduate professionals who are very competitive in the society. PTA programs are accredited at the associate level. The National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). To be able to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination, one must complete a CAPTE- accredited degree program (SR Education Group, 2014).

According to SR Education Group (2014), there are many institutions offering physical therapist programs. One of them is Boston University, which charges $44,880 per year; University of Michigan-Fint, $18,238; and University of New England, $33,145 per year. The programs these universities offer prepare students for a career as a physical therapy aide or assistant. Master’s programs in physical therapy typically last two years, and doctoral programs last three years. Bachelor’s programs in physical therapy are often titled “pre-physical therapy” programs, because they are designed to prepare students for graduate programs in physical therapy.

There are many certified occupations in this field. One of them is the clinical electrophysiology, that studies electric functions of the body. The physical therapists who specialize in this area record and interpret data, and then apply their findings to a patient’s physical therapy plan.There is also cardiovascular and pulmonary, which is treating patients with cardiopulmonary disorders or those who have had cardiac or pulmonary surgery.Other examples include: geriatrics – the physical therapy for the elderly and aging; neurology, which deals with patients suffering from brain injuries; orthopaedics, which entails working with people who have broken or weak bones; paediatric physical therapy, which is administered to young children; and women’s health specialists, who assist patients with medical conditions such as pre- and postnatal distress, incontinence, and lower back pain (SR Education Group, 2014).

According to McKay (2015), this career is growing more quickly than most other health care jobs. He notes that prospects are even better for physical therapist assistants than for physical therapists who oversee them. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts physical therapists will employ more physical therapist assistants to evaluate patients with the intention of lowering the costs. It is estimated that employment growth for physical therapist assistants should average 41 percent between 2012 and 2022 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014). The average salary for this career is about $53,360 per year and the best paid earns $73,760 per year. The modern field of physical therapy is showing dynamic expansion into a variety of new areas that present exciting opportunities for new and currently employed physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. Some of the newest opportunities in this field include working in private offices, workplace, home care services, sports, medicine, school/pre-school, industrial and outpatient clinic. The largest percentage of patients receiving this service are older adults over the age of 65 years (Wedge, Mendoza, & Reft, 2014).

I have been having a strong interest in this field since my childhood. My strong passion to help people, my first-rate interpersonal skills and the experience I am getting adds ignites more desire of becoming a physical therapist assistant. My aims and objectives after the undergraduate degree is to look for internship to hone my skills in this field. After that, I will look for a job in a health care institution after acquiring the licence. This field truly satisfies me together with the remuneration that comes with it.


American Physical Therapy Association. (2015, February 2). Ethics & Professionalism. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://www.apta.org/EthicsProfessionalism/

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2014, January 8). Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapy-assistants-and-aides.htm#tab-2

Curtis, K. A. (1999). The Physical Therapist’s Guide to Health Care. Thorofare, NJ: SLACK Incorporated,.

McKay, D. R. (2015). Physical Therapist -Career Information. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://careerplanning.about.com/od/occupations/p/phys_therapist.htm

SR Education Group. (2014). Accredited Colleges Offering Physical Therapist Degrees. Retrieved February 25, 2015, from http://www.collegesanddegrees.com/programs/physical-therapy

Swisher L, H. P. (2010). The Revised APTA Codes of Ethics for the Physical Therapist Assistant: Theory, Purpose, Process and SInifigance. Physical Therapy, 90 (5), 803-804.

Wedge, F., Mendoza, M., & Reft, J. (2014). Development of Geriatric Curricular Content Within a Physical Therapist Assistant Education Program. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 28 (2), 85-90.


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