A physiotherapist assistant--better known as a physical therapist assistant--is a health care professional who helps physiotherapists (or physical therapists) in rehabilitating patients who have physical impairments. Physiotherapist assistants contribute to improving the mobility of patients.
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When physiotherapists develop treatment plans tailored to the patients' needs, they rely on their assistants to help implement them. Under the physiotherapists' supervision, the assistants treat patients with a variety of methods that include massage, electrical stimulation and ultrasound; instruct them on how to use and care for devices that aid mobility such as wheelchairs, braces and artificial limbs; and record their response to treatment and/or progress. In some cases, physiotherapist assistants might handle non-medical tasks such as answering phones, setting appointments or filling out insurance forms.
Type of Patients
The patients that physiotherapist assistants take care of suffer from medical conditions that disable them. It could be from injuries from accidents or diseases such as arthritis, cerebral palsy or a heart ailment. Physiotherapist assistants provide health care to patients of all ages--from children to the elderly.
Work Environment and Conditions
Most physiotherapist assistants can be found in physiotherapists' offices. Hospitals, nursing care facilities and residential care centres are also major employers. Since they do a substantial amount of physical exertion to assist patients with their treatments, physiotherapist assistants need a significant amount of strength. Most of them work the traditional 40-hour work week, although some evening and weekend hours might be demanded depending on the manner of workplace.
Education and Training
The minimum educational requirement for entry into the physiotherapist assistant field is a high school diploma. Employers, however, prefer candidates with associate's degrees from a program accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association's Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. The degree can be obtained in two years from a community college or technical school.
Salary and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average physiotherapist assistant made an annual salary of around £31,200 in 2009. The BLS expects a 35 per cent job increase in the field between 2008 and 2018, which it estimates to be a much faster rate than the average for all U.S. occupations during that period.
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