If you’re considering a physical therapy career, training to become a physical therapy aide can offer a unique and rewarding role within the field.
Aides work under a licensed Physical Therapist (PTs), who use exercise, touch, instruction, equipment, and modalities (like heat, cold, electricity, and ultrasound) to treat their patients. PTs may administer the treatment themselves or direct and supervise others to administer the treatment.
Physical therapy aides play crucial roles in the practice of physical therapy. PT aides serve as support personnel and help keep the PT facility running smoothly and efficiently. PT aides work under the supervision of the physical therapist and, in some cases, the physical therapist assistant (PTA). Their contribution is extremely important, and they’re valuable members of the physical therapy team.
PT aides are unlicensed personnel. This means that states don’t require PT aides to earn a college degree or take a licensing exam. However, most employers prefer to hire aides who have some experience or training.
PT aides’ duties vary. Many aides take care of:
- Administrative tasks such as scheduling and registering patients
- Answering the phone
- Taking care of billing and insurance duties
- Keeping the clinic and equipment clean and well-maintained
- Manage the inventory of supplies.
Aides who work in hospitals may transport patients to and from the PT department. They must know how to position patients properly in bed or in wheelchairs and be very careful about safety issues when transporting or positioning patients. The PT will rely on aides to always keep patient safety their first priority.
In some states, PT aides may work directly with patients. Once they have sufficient experience and training, they might:
- Supervise an exercise program designed by the PT
- Use modalities such as heat and cold
- Educate patients about equipment
- Work with patients on mobility skills (walking or using crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs)
- Teach them some basic functional tasks.
All states require that the physical therapist (or physical therapist assistants in some states) be physically present at the same site, and readily available, when a PT aide is engaged in direct patient care.
Working as a valuable member of the physical therapy team is a wonderful career! It is also a profession with a high demand for competent and compassionate people who care about the needs of patients and their families.