Physical Therapy Aide
What is a physical therapy aide?
Physical therapy aides, also known as rehab aides or rehab techs, are members of physical rehabilitation teams who provide support to physical therapists and physical therapy assistants. They often act as a second pair of hands to physical therapists and their assistants, and support rehabilitation departments by assisting with many essential patient care tasks, as well as being responsible for a whole host of non-patient care duties like keeping the therapy department clean and well organized.
In many cases, physical therapy aide jobs may involve providing administrative support to clinics or intra-hospital departments by assisting with billing, filing and managing inter-department communication. A physical therapy aide can be the key to a smooth and efficient department as he or she is often responsible for scheduling and patient transport. While a physical therapist or physical therapy assistant is busy with one patient, the PT aide may be greeting the next patient, bringing the patient into the department and preparing the patient for a therapy session.
When a physical therapist or assistant is running a treatment group, a PT aide can be present to help steady patients or transition therapy equipment between activities. When working with a patient who has severely impaired mobility, a therapist may need another person to assist in order to move the patient safely.
Physical therapy aides may work in most medical settings where physical therapists work. This includes acute care hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, outpatient clinics and skilled nursing facilities.
Why are therapy aides so important to health care organizations?
The US Department of Labor puts all health care positions in the above average growth category. Because the population of the United States is aging, and because legislative changes are increasing access to health care, the need for all health care professionals is growing rapidly. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 36% increase in the number of physical therapy aides needed by 2018.
Because of a general shortage of health care personnel in the US, most physical therapists and physical therapy assistants find themselves responsible for large caseloads consisting of many patients with many different needs. In this situation, the more time a therapist can devote to patient care the better. Because physical therapists must be available to provide direct care, many clinics and therapy departments find it most effective to employ additional personnel to assume responsibility for the other essential activities that support the department. A PT aide fills this role by taking on the additional responsibilities that are necessary to keep a therapy department running well, allowing therapists to perform their duties more efficiently and effectively. This scenario is clearly in patients’ best interest as it allows therapists and their assistants to be devoted solely to providing direct patient care.
How is a physical therapy aide different than a physical therapist or physical therapy assistant?
Physical therapy aide is not a licensed position. A dedicated person who wants a career in rehabilitation therapy can enter a PT aide post with a high-school diploma and certification denoting formal physical therapy aide training. By contrast, physical therapists and physical therapy assistants are positions that require specific college degrees and, in most cases, licenses from the state where they live.
While Medicare does not cover therapy services provided by an aide, some private insurers still do. This means that an aide may provide hands on patient care while under the direct supervision of a physical therapist. It is important to note that in the settings where an aide can provide treatment, a physical therapist – not a physical therapy assistant – must be in line of sight. Insurers maintain these guidelines in accordance with the state practice acts for physical therapists.