Physical Therapy Assistant Job Description

Working under the supervision of a Physical Therapist, a Physical Therapy Assistant provides physical therapy services to people recovering from injury, illness or surgery.

Physical Therapy Assistants usually work in physical therapy offices or hospitals. They work very closely with Physical Therapists to ensure quality patient care. The job is expected to grow at about 40 percent over the next 10 years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a rate that is much higher than average.


Physical Therapy Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

In order to accomplish their main objective of implementing physical therapy patient care, Physical Therapy Assistants perform many tasks. We analyzed several job listings and identified these primary Physical Therapy Assistant duties and responsibilities.

Perform Patient Screenings

The Physical Therapy Assistant typically screens incoming patients, performing exams and interviews, to determine their needs and concerns. They record this information and use it to develop treatment plans.

Develop Treatment Programs

Using information from patient exams and interviews, the Physical Therapy Assistant prepares treatment and exercise programs that respond to individual patient problems. They identify patient goals and the appropriate measurements for reaching said goals.

Administer Patient Treatments

Under the supervision of the Physical Therapist, the Physical Therapy Assistant carries out treatment and exercise programs. They perform various therapeutic procedures, providing patients with encouragement, instruction and physical assistance. They also assist and instruct them in the use of supportive devices such as crutches, braces, and wheelchairs.

Evaluate Patient Performance

A Physical Therapy Assistant monitors patient progress throughout all patient treatments and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses, adapting patient plans accordingly. They track progress toward identified goals based on measurements set out in the treatment plans and communicate this progress with the Physical Therapist.

Document Patient Progress

The Physical Therapist must accurately document all patient treatment plans and sessions. They chart patient progress in departmental records and communicate documentation to all relevant parties. They update documentation constantly, noting any changes and adjustments in patient health and treatment plans.


Physical Therapy Assistant Skills

Physical Therapy Assistants are analytical thinkers with excellent interpersonal skills. They are great motivators who provide top-notch customer service while assessing patient needs and working effectively in a team. In order to be successful, Physical Therapy Assistants must be committed to patient progress and highly flexible.

Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want Physical Therapy Assistants with these core skills. If you want to work as a Physical Therapy Assistant, focus on the following.

  • Obtaining appropriate license
  • Proficiency in standard computer programs, such as Microsoft Word and Excel
  • Accurately recording information
  • Working with sick or injured people
  • Having a knowledge of the human body

Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your Physical Therapy Assistant toolbox and broaden your career options.

  • Experience working with specific populations, specifically geriatric
  • Proficiency in specific, relevant computer documentation systems


Physical Therapy Assistant Resources

We searched the Web to find the best industry resources that can help you continue exploring a career as a Physical Therapy Assistant. From thought leaders to important industry associations, this list is packed with opportunities to learn, connect and engage.

On the Web

Clinicient’s Blog – Business-oriented advice for physical therapy clinics

Mike Reinold – Mike Reinold’s award-winning physical therapy blog

The Manual Therapist – An eclectic approach to physical therapy

Industry Groups

APTA – American Physical Therapy Association

WCPT – World Confederation for Physical Therapy

FSBPT – The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy Assistant Books

Trail Guide to the Body – A comprehensive guide to locating muscles in the human body

Therapeutic Exercise Foundations and Techniques – Exercise guidelines for people with movement disorders

Healing Pelvic Pain – A strengthening, stretching, and nutrition program for pelvic healing


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