Physical Therapy Aide Training Programs
What formal education is available?Certification programs through physical therapy aide schools offer a foundational education providing the skills that a good PT aide is expected to possess. Certification programs offer a certificate of completion to assure potential employers that the foundations of physical therapy aide activity have been learned and practice.
In response to the demands of busy students who are often completing their educations while working and raising families, many learning institutions now offer
What classes are included in physical therapy aide programs?A physical therapy aide training program will offer courses on medical terminology, introduction to the discipline (physical therapy, occupational therapy, or both), exercise and mobility principles and health and safety. Some programs also offer introductions to billing principles, office administration and training in customer service and communication.
Because the duties specific to physical therapy assistant jobs can vary, it is helpful to take a broad approach to skills training. And while direct hands-on patient treatment may not be a part of a PT aide’s job, it is very helpful to understand the clinical language spoken by the therapists and know the basics of the various conditions and precautions specific to patients seen in the department.
Courses in treatment practice prepare physical therapy aides for the responsibility of assisting patients with getting set up on therapeutic exercise equipment, and knowing about the various conditions encountered allows a physical therapy aide to be an effective set of eyes and ears in the department.
Coursework will also train a physical therapy aide with basic instruction specific to use of the equipment essential in a therapy department. A physical therapy aide may take a patient’s blood pressure or take oxygen readings with a pulse oximiter. They may use hydraulic or electric patient lifts and will often use the department’s mobility and exercise equipment. A therapy aide needs to be familiar with wheelchairs and their upkeep and may assist a therapist in use of modalities such as heat, ice, ultrasound or electrical stimulation.
Additionally, some worksites may require that staff be certified in basic life support and CPR. These are courses that expire and are taken every few years. The first provision of this course may be through a formal certification program, but it will then need to be re-taken every 1-2 years. Some employers offer this as part of the employee continuing education program. Courses are also available through the Red Cross or through local hospitals.
What can I expect from on-the-job training as a physical therapy aide?Absolutely. Because the job responsibilities vary between hospital and clinic departments, the specifics of the job in a given setting will often be learned through employment. A physical therapy aide who has experience with the language of rehabilitation and the principles of patient handling will have an advantage over other candidates, but still a large part of an aide’s duties are unique to the department in which they work.
In settings where a department uses a computerized scheduling or documentation system, on-the-job training is essential for an aide to be effective in assisting with this aspect of the department’s operation. Additionally, a rehabilitation department will have specific policies and procedures for patient flow and transportation, and a PT aide will learn those practices on site. Organizations that offer specialty clinical services such as neurological rehab or wound care, for instance, may need to teach the specific support activities their therapy aides are responsible for.
For many, becoming a physical therapy aide is a step along the path to becoming a physical therapist or therapy assistant. Having access to skilled professionals with knowledge beyond what is strictly required of the job is invaluable, so most therapists will be happy to take a teaching or mentoring role with people who are passionate about the profession and eager to learn. This makes the therapy aide position an excellent introduction for individuals who are thinking about a longer career path.