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How to Become a Physiotherapist Assistant – Explore careers

Do you love helping people who require special care? Do you want to help someone to return to their lives rejuvenated after a major accident? If you are trying to find a satisfying job and helping people with physical restraints or disabilities, the role of a physiotherapist assistant (PTA) would suit you. In the UK, you are looking at a starting salary of £17,000+ as a physiotherapy assistant working for the NHS.l. In the US, the amount was $58,000+ back in 2018. With the growing number of elderly people in the developed countries, the need for physiotherapists and physiotherapist assistants are rising rapidly. In our physiotherapist assistant guide, you will get information about the responsibilities of a physiotherapist, the entry requirements, and the accredited courses offered how to become a physiotherapy assistant. The steps of becoming a physiotherapist assistant are:

  • Graduating English and Mathematics in IGCSE
  • Completing an online certification course
  • Applying for jobs through NHS Jobs and other online platforms

In addition, you can have an idea about the prospects of a career in physiotherapy. More importantly, you are giving yourself an opportunity where you can help patients with mobility and pain issues in order to improve their lives.

What does a Physiotherapist Assistant Do?

‘We guide groups of people through exercises and relaxation techniques to help them manage chronic pain. We also teach patients how to use new walking aids, specify the fittings they may need to get around safely at home and run injection clinics for pain relief’. – Tahira Jabeen Razaq, Physiotherapy Assistant, Birmingham

You will work under physiotherapists and follow their instructions. The primary duties will include:

  • Equipment set-up
  • Helping patients with mobility aids
  • Assisting patients with pre-treatment preparations (i.e. dressing and undressing)
  • Preparing reports of patients and updating records in the system
  • Aiding patients in exercising

As a physiotherapy assistant, the patients you are working with usually:

  • have chronic pain in joints
  • suffer from arthritis
  • have cerebral palsy
  • suffer from lower-back aches
  • had accidents and got injured with fractures

Physiotherapy assistants usually work within elderly care, outpatients’ department, women’s health, orthopaedics, mental health and disability services, occupational health, stroke services, paediatrics etc. However, the scopes are unlimited with the private sector.

The therapist is responsible for developing the comprehensive treatment plan which you are to follow. The implementation will come in the form of massages, balance training, electrical stimulations etc.

In addition, you will update the progress reports of the patients and train the patients for self-care steps.

Personal Traits and Skills to Become a Physiotherapist Assistant

The basic skills for the job comes from your personality and ability to communicate properly with your patients. In order to be a physiotherapy assistant, you should be:

  • happy to be actively involved to the patients
  • calm and understanding
  • capable of following the instructions provided by your superiors
  • follow procedures thoroughly
  • excellent listeners
  • happy to work within groups and large teams
  • physically fit and strong, capable of demonstrating exercises
  • willing to work individually or as a part of a team

Among many other things, physical assistant therapists play important roles in smooth running of the offices they work in. They usually have management duties which demand organizational skills. You have to check the minute details of a therapeutic session. Nothing can be overlooked for the sake of the patient. When you are working with patients under intense pain, you have to be compassionate.

Your capacity of working within a team and communicating the information effectively to the team members do matter a lot in the job. Like many other professions in the health sector, you have to work flexible hours. Thus, you might be working evenings and weekends to accommodate the requirements of your patients and organization.
Physiotherapy assistants are required to be physically fit to help the patients with manipulative treatments. You have to be flexible, capable of standing for hours and move comfortably in kneeling and bending positions to help your patients.

As a physical therapist assistant you should be able to explain complex technical terms in lay-person language to your patients. Your communication skills help you a lot to attain a positive impact. The patient should trust you and embrace challenges for betterment. You have to be persuasive to engage your patients in painful therapies.
You will need to assess your patients’ progress on a regular basis and report everything to the supervisors. Your assessment skills come handy in this regard.
Finally, the job requires you to be very patient. The recovery process of certain patients will take a long time while others might recover rapidly.
Your career as a therapy assistant would come with positive benefits. People are usually very grateful for the services they receive from physiotherapy assistants. Your salary matters but you achieve a sense of self-attainment in the job.

How to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant

You don’t need an associate’s degree to start working as a physical therapy assistant In the United Kingdom. If you intend to work for the NHS, you must believe in the values of the organization. You will receive on-the-job training when you begin your career for the NHS.

If you are planning to work for NHS as a physiotherapy assistant, you need to align yourself with the following NHS values:

  • Respect and dignity
  • Commitment to quality of care
  • Compassion Improving lives
  • Everyone counts

With English and science in GCSEs, you can start applying for the positions offered by different NHS trusts and private health organizations. In the UK, you will need a DBS check to work with children and elderly people. With an accredited certificate, you can boost your CV and stand out from the crowd.

Once you start working for the NHS, you will get the opportunity to take professional certification courses besides hands-on education.

In the long run, the career of physical therapy assistant allows you to pursue the career of a physiotherapist if you intend to go back to college. With the ongoing demand for physiotherapists, you can decide to graduate as a physiotherapist from any recognized college or university in uk.

Accredited Physiotherapy Assistant Programs Online

Online courses are very popular these days for many people. With a concentrated effort on your side, an online course can divulge a wide range of information for your career as a physiotherapy assistant. These courses allow people to study in their own time, work flexible hours and carry out family duties at the same time.
The key factors that encourage students to take online courses are:

  • Time — working students with family responsibilities can manage their time better with online courses. If you are planning to work full-time and study at the same time, an online course would be a convenient option for you.
  • Transportation fees — the reduction of transportation cost is a major issue in countries like the US, India, China. Your preferred institution might be in the remote corner of the country. However, the distance learning program or online program would save you from travelling long distances and spending a lot of money.
  • Study materials — study materials come in the form of e-books, videos, podcasts etc. These are cost-friendly options compared to traditional printed materials.

Finding the right course online would require a bit of research from your side. Start comparing the tuition fees, certification authority, participant’s review and the number of similar programs offered by different organizations. You can start by reviewing the modules offered by St. Paul’s Academy.

Employment Opportunities and Pay for Physiotherapy Assistants

In the UK, most of the physiotherapy assistant jobs come through NHS Jobs posted by NHS trusts. You have to check the individual websites of the trusts for job vacancies. Many online job agencies post adverts for the positions outside NHS.

Physical therapy assistants working for NHS get paid based on Agenda for Change (AfC) pay system. Most of the assistants start on AfC band 2 or 3. The average salary is between £17,000 and £23,000.

Source: National Careers Service

You can gradually move to band 4 gaining experience and training for the positions of assistant practitioners. Alternatively, you can decide to enrol for a university degree to become a physiotherapist.

Statistics by Bureau of Labour Statistics show that the annual wage of a physiotherapy assistant in the US was $58,040 in 2018 on average, and the percentage of jobs in the sector increased by 35% from 2008 to 2018. The average salary for a physical therapy assistant was $48,590 back in 2009 with the highest being more than $63,000. The average salaries in New York, Massachusetts and California were $113,000, $112,000 and $104,000 respectively. However, the states where the salaries are comparatively higher, the cost of living is higher too.

With the advancements in the field of medical technology, the average lifespan of people is going up. Most of the elderly people require the help of physiotherapists after hospitalization. California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio are the states with the highest number of jobs for physical therapy assistants. People can work in hospitals, clinics, physical therapy officers, orthopaedic offices, surgical offices, nursing homes and physical therapy centres.

Professional Development with NHS

Once you start your career with NHS, you will be trained by your organization and department. On top of this, you may be offered to study for the following qualifications:

  • NCFE CACHE level 2 Certificate in Healthcare Support Services
  • NCFE CACHE level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Support

You can become an associate member of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. The society provides an opportunity to meet the professional in your field and enhance your skills joining conferences, workshops and other training programs.

Regular cases for physiotherapist assistants

Physical therapist assistants work in environments where they often find themselves dealing with certain types of patients. They eventually become skilled in providing therapeutic counselling to treat specific illnesses.

Physical therapy assistants regularly deal with certain types of problems. They usually help the patients of the following categories:

  • Stroke patients: Therapy assistants work with stroke victims to turn them mobile rapidly. Physiotherapy assistants motivate the patients to constantly challenge their achievements to reach higher levels. With the use of stimulation devices, the results are more rapid these days.
  • Cerebral palsy: If you are a physiotherapist assistant working with children, cerebral palsy patients would be a regular phenomenon for you. Every child has a different type of cerebral palsy, and the therapist assistants are responsible for supporting the children individually with the help of supportive devices. The goal of an assistant is to improve balance and spatial perception of a child in a cerebral palsy case.
  • Back pain: When back pain turns severe, people seek help from physiotherapists. After the initial evaluation carried out by the therapy team, the physical therapist proceeds with a treatment plan. Usually, the physical therapy assistant will opt for the joint manipulation of soft tissues as a therapeutic tool. If the type of injury is severe, you need to educate the patient with pain prevention tactics. Sometimes the patients need deep back massages which calls for strong arms and hands for the physical assistant.
  • Wrist injuries: The numbers of patients with hand and wrist problems are going up rapidly due to the number of people using computers and phones. The assistant physical therapist would help these patients with heat and cold contrast baths and vascular exercises.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women go through excruciating pain during pain, and physical therapy becomes a viable option at that point. Some physiotherapy assistants become experts with pregnancy-related cases and earn higher salary in the process.

A high job satisfaction rate shows how the job can change your life positively. The invaluable joy of helping people to get on their feet is the ultimate achievement in your routine life. Explore the outline of our accredited online course to begin your journey as a physiotherapy assistant.

April 15, 2021

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