A physical therapy aide is a person who works directly under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist or physical therapy assistant.
They act as a second pair of hands in the physical therapy environment and perform duties not directly related to patient care.
An aide’s duties may include clerical tasks, prepping the therapy room, maintaining and cleaning equipment, changing sheets, helping the patient move from the waiting room to the exam room, taking patient info, taking inventory, and ordering supplies.
Little to no formal education is needed, but there are educational programs related to this job that can improve your skills and employment opportunities.
Physical therapy aides can work in a variety of settings including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, sports teams, and private practices.
They may work for a therapist who specializes in sports, pediatrics, geriatrics, neurology, or oncology.
The average physical therapy aide makes about $31,000 a year.
According to research, the need for this profession is expected to increase by 27% over the next several years.
In order to be a good PT aide, you should have good communication skills, be well organized, and patient, and take direction well.
Keep reading for a list of the pros and cons of being a physical therapy assistant.
1. Short Training
Physical therapy aides are not required to be licensed or even certified for the job.
However, it’s always a good idea to obtain as much education as you can.
This will increase your chances of being hired, as well as asking for raises and benefits in the future.
There are schools that offer certification programs for PT aides.
The courses can usually be completed in a matter of 6 to 12 weeks.
Many are offered online and are self-paced.
2. Can Be Rewarding
Any time you are helping patients feel better or reach a goal, it’s bound to make you feel good.
The sense of personal fulfillment is definitely a pro.
It’s always nice to go to work knowing you’re going to make a difference and brighten someone’s day.
3. Good Job Outlook
Another positive aspect of the job, is that it’s potential for growth is excellent.
It’s projected that the need for physical therapy support personnel will increase by 27% over the next several years.
So as the need increases, it’s possible that the pay and benefits for the position will follow.
4. Regular Work Schedule
Working as a physical therapy aide guarantees that you will have a set schedule.
Whether you work part or full-time, there won’t be constant shifts and time changes to your work week.
This will allow you to schedule your personal activities with no work conflicts.
You’ll enjoy weekends off as well as most major holidays.
5. Opportunities For Growth
Working as a physical therapy aide can give you valuable experience in the field and allow you to learn many aspects of the profession.
This will come in handy should you decide to pursue becoming an assistant or full physical therapist later on.
6. Chance To Build Relationships
You’ll be working in a medical facility with many other people.
This will give you the opportunity to get to know people and build valuable work relationships.
You may also click with some co-workers and build friendships outside the workplace.
Patients may also become familiar faces, and you have the opportunity to build friendships with them as well.
7. Work As A Team
As a physical therapy aide, you will never be on your own.
There will always be someone to ask if you have questions or concerns.
You’ll be able to work on projects with other people, so the stress will not overwhelm you.
It’s always nice to have competent, professional, colleagues to lean on from time to time.
If you work as a full-time physical therapy assistant, chances are you will get benefits.
The package could include medical, dental, and vision.
Some facilities may offer disability insurance and time off for parental leave.
Over time, you will be offered paid vacation, paid time off, and sick leave.
Some places may even offer 401K matching and discounts on services.
1. Physically Demanding
The job of a physical therapy aide can be physically difficult.
You’re on your feet a good portion of the day.
There is the need to help patients move from one area to another, perhaps help them in and out of wheelchairs, and move around equipment.
You will also be expected to do a lot of bending, lifting, and pushing.
This can sometimes lead to injury.
Many physical therapy aides report being exhausted by the end of the day.
2. No Autonomy
Being a physical therapy aide means you’re constantly taking directions from the physical therapist and the assistant.
There is little to no room for autonomy or creativity in this job.
You usually have a list of daily tasks that will need to be completed.
Whenever the physical therapist needs something you’ll have to drop what you are doing and get it for them.
This can leave you feeling unfulfilled in your job.
3. Additional Training For Advancement
If you decide that you want to move up the ladder in the physical therapy profession, you will need to go back to school.
An assistant must complete a 2-year degree program, pass a test, and be licensed by the state.
An actual therapist must complete a 5-year program, do hundreds of hours of internship, pass several exams, and be licensed by the state.
This is something to consider when choosing a path in physical therapy.
4. Emotionally Draining
Even though a physical therapy aide does not have the responsibility of direct patient care, they do have contact with patients.
Depending on the environment, it can be emotionally draining.
For instance, working with elderly patients who have suffered a stroke or have dementia can be a sad and depressing experience.
Working with cancer patients who may end up passing is also distressing.
In general, seeing people in pain on a daily basis can take its toll.
You should seriously consider this aspect before signing on to work in this field.
There are, however, many options as to where you can work, so choose wisely.
5. Low Pay
The average pay for a physical therapy assistant is around $27,000 a year in the United States.
Though the ability to make more is there, it’s still not the best-paying job.
If you need to support a family, it might not be right for you.
This would be a good position for someone right out of school, a college student, or someone looking to add to an already stable family income.
6. Potential For Burnout
All of the above cons can spell a recipe for burnout in many aides.
The poor pay, lack of autonomy, constant physical movement, and seeing depressing sites can lead a person to just quit to profession together.
This could leave the individual with no job at all, and not want to work in the medical industry ever again.
7. Dress Code
Most facilities that employ physical therapists and their aides do have a strict dress code.
You may be asked to wear a uniform such as a polo shirt and khaki pants with black sneakers.
Other places may ask that you wear business casual clothes.
Many places have strict rules regarding the placement of certain tattoos, facial piercings, and some types of hair color.
These are all things to consider before taking a job as a physical therapy aide.
15 Pros and Cons of Being a Physical Therapy Aide – Summary Table
|1. Short Training||1. Physically Demanding|
|2. Can Be Rewarding||2. No Autonomy|
|3. Good Job Outlook||3. Additional Training For Advancement|
|4. Regular Work Schedule||4. Emotionally Draining|
|5. Opportunities For Growth||5. Low Pay|
|6. Chance To Build Relationships||6. Potential For Burnout|
|7. Work As A Team||7. Dress Code|
Should You Become A Physical Therapy Aide?
Being a physical therapy aide takes a lot of patience and the ability to take directions from all other staff members.
If you can’t do that, then this is not the job for you.
You will also need to be well-organized, and physically fit enough to assist patients, move equipment, and stock inventory.
If you can do all these tasks, and enjoy helping people and working as a team then you may want to consider it.
Keep it mind that the pay is not great, so you may need to supplement it or consider another job in the future.
Overall, it’s not a bad job for a person with a lot of energy and desire to help others.