One of the more overlooked yet crucial parts of the rehabilitation process is the physical therapy assistant. Usually in the background jotting notes and following the orders of the physical therapist, the assistant is there to help in any way possible, whether with procedures, patient care, or paperwork.
A physical therapy assistant is not accredited as fully as the actual therapist, nor is their education necessarily of the level required for fully trained therapists. Usually, the physical therapy assistant is trained on the job and is required to hold, at minimum, a high school diploma. The assistant must meet other requirements and are employed at the discretion of the therapist. There are a variety of skills that are crucial to such a job. Basic ‘people’ skills such as active listening and awareness can serve greatly in this occupation. It will be important to monitor the behavior of the patient as a tool of recognizing problems that may arise. The ability to be articulate and have great comprehension skills will also be of help to the physical therapy assistant. The assistant will be working very closely with the patients and as such is an important tool to monitor the effectiveness of any treatments and procedures. Clerical duties are another responsibility of the physical therapy assistant, so a strong moral fiber is required as the assistant will be privy to information important to the patient. Under the guidance of the physical therapist, the assistant will also help in the implementation of treatments.
The assistant is to facilitate in the treatment and care of patients and will help the acting therapist in any needed area. This will include the treatment and procedures that the patient will undergo. The variety of patients and their individual concerns are staggering and the physical therapy assistant must be able to understand each individual case and know the procedures required. With the help of the overseeing therapist, the assistant will implement the use of hot and cold packs, ultrasounds, and other devices that will be used in the rehabilitation. The physical therapy assistant must be empathic as the patients that they will encounter are often in pain or are otherwise disabled. Amputees, post-operation patients, and those that are paralyzed may all be seen in the office. The physical therapy assistant will cater to the differing needs of each individual whether by assisting with wheel chairs, helping them with paper work or simply holding the door open as a courtesy.
Physical therapy assistants are an important fixture in the office. With this in mind, the assistant must be skilled in multiple ways and possess various capabilities that will be used to assist, monitor and maintain the care of patients. Often times, these assistants will become physical therapists themselves and take the lessons learned into their new career.