Physical Therapist Assistants in Demand, Particularly in Texas

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VC_physical_therapyby Eric Jensen

Baby boomers are reaching retirement age and may need surgeries and other medical procedures as they age.

This results in an increased need for physical therapist assistants in the Crossroads region. For the 16-18 students enrolling each fall in the two-year program, jobs are available in a variety of physical therapist assistant roles.

Laura Crandall, Director of Victoria College’s Physical Therapist Assistant Program, said the courses prepare a student to work as a PTA under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist. The PT evaluates the patient and sets up the physical therapy plan of care for the patient. The PTA helps the PT carry out that plan of care.

Zabdiel Vallejo and Jessica Hebel participate in PTA lab exercises.

Zabdiel Vallejo and Jessica Hebel participate in PTA lab exercises.

“This can be anything from high-level athletes to people who are bedridden because of a degenerative disease,” Crandall said. “This includes people of all ages, from premature infants to elderly patients and everyone in between.”

Specialty areas within the PTA spectrum include working in an acute care hospital, a rehabilitation hospital dealing with neurological patients, pediatric facilities, or in schools where they work with children who have various orthopedic and developmental delay issues. PTAs can also work with the elderly in nursing homes, with athletes in sports centers, and in research centers.

“When first entering VC’s PTA Program, our students think they are going to go in a specific area – they want to work with sports, or outpatient, or with kids – and then once they get into the program and experience all the different facets of physical therapy, they change,” Crandall noted. “They end up becoming interested in something they never thought they would be interested in.”

At graduation, students in the program receive an Associate of Applied Science physical therapist assistant degree and are job ready. After graduation, they must sit for a national licensing examination, usually held in July.

For the past two years, graduates of VC’s PTA Program have had a 100 percent pass rate. In the past three years, they have had 100 percent employability, Crandall reported.

The first year, PTA students receive classroom training; then the first summer they go out for four weeks working full-time in the field. They return for more classroom education for one more semester, and then their final semester they are in the clinic full time for 12 weeks, working like a full-time PTA under the direction of a physical therapist.

She said there is a “huge need” for PTAs, not only in the nation, but also Texas in particular.

“All the baby boomers are reaching that age where they are starting to have surgeries, such as total knee and total hip replacements,” she said. “With the managed healthcare coming down the pipeline, PTs will be needed to evaluate the patient and set up the care plan, with the PTA carrying out that plan.

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Focus On:
Physical Therapist Assistants

What They Do:
Assist physical therapists in providing physical therapy treatments and procedures. They may, in accordance with state laws, assist in the development of treatment plans, perform routine functions, document treatment progress, and modify specific treatments in accordance with patient status and within the scope of treatment plans established by a physical therapist.

How Much Does It Pay?
$51,000 to $95,000 annually

Job Outlook
In the Crossroads Region, there are 74 physical therapist assistants employed. This number is expected to increase by 20.3% over the next
four years.

Education & Training

Associate of Applied Science degree

Source: emsi Career Coach 2014

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