Physical Therapist Assistant

Considering a career in health care? Explore the rewarding world of physical therapy! Become a physical therapist assistant (PTA).

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, employment of physical therapist assistants is expected to grow more than 48 percent in Illinois by 2016 due to increasing demand for physical therapy services.

Start your journey to a rewarding career at KCC!

Learn more: Email advising@kcc.edu or phone 815-802-8500.

Program coordinator: Jessica Corbus, email jcorbus@kcc.edu, phone 815-802-8816.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy is the art and science of providing non-invasive health care services using an individualized “hands-on” approach. The primary focus of physical therapy is to improve quality of life and movement by alleviating pain; maintaining, improving or restoring physical function and mobility; and promoting healing, health and wellness for individuals of all ages. Physical therapy can play a role in most peoples' lives. Impairment or dysfunction resulting from injury, disease or conditions of the musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiopulmonary, or integumentary (skin) systems are the most common problems treated in physical therapy.

The physical therapy profession

Physical therapists (PTs) are health care professionals who diagnose and treat individuals of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, who have medical problems or other conditions which limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives.

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are skilled health care providers who provide physical therapy services to these patients under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist.

PTs and PTAs specialize in human movement science and enjoy challenging work, communicating with people, and working in a team to assist patients to achieve their fullest rehabilitation potential.

PTA responsibilities

The responsibilities of the PTA include assisting the physical therapist in implementing, monitoring, and modifying patient-specific treatment programs. With a strong emphasis on patient/caregiver education, therapeutic exercise and functional training are the fundamental treatments provided by the PTA.

Depending on the particular needs of the patient, the PTA also uses manual techniques; neuromuscular rehabilitation; modalities such as electrical stimulation, ultrasound, heat, cold, and massage; and wound care interventions. PTAs are responsible for reporting patients' responses and treatment outcomes to the PT. In addition, physical therapist assistants supervise physical therapy aides and PTA students in accordance to state practice laws and regulations.

Career path for the PTA

As an integral member of the health care team, the PTA works in a variety of settings, which include: hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, schools, home health, hospice facilities, research centers, athletic facilities, industrial clinics, academic centers as educators and more.

Due to the diversity of patients seen and the variety of clinical settings available, physical therapist assistants can specialize in the care of one patient group or experience a variety of employment options. A physical therapist assistant can also advance his/her clinical skills through professional continuing education as well as seek recognition of the Advanced Proficiency for the Physical Therapist Assistant by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

The local and national career outlook for physical therapist assistants is very good. Employment is expected to grow much faster than average due to the increasing demand for physical therapy services. Our aging population, medical and technological development, new and recurrent diseases, new practice sites and specialties, and the need for cost-effective and efficient patient care have made today’s physical therapist assistant graduates more marketable than ever. Most physical therapist assistants find employment in hospitals, health practitioner offices, nursing and rehab care facilities, home healthcare, and outpatient clinics.  For current salary and career projections, visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

Licensure

Eligibility to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for physical therapist assistants requires having graduated from an accredited PTA education program. Successful completion of this exam is necessary for licensure and to practice as a PTA in Illinois, and most other states.

In addition to passing the NPTE, each state includes rigorous legal and ethical standards of practice. For more details on the practice standards for Illinois, please visit the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations. You may also find more information about the NPTE and a listing of state regulatory agencies and their requirements for licensure by visiting the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.