Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) work under the direct supervision
of a physical therapist (PT). Paulette Peloquin says her job is to make an
injured person stronger, and to help a person who has given up hope of ever
walking again to walk again. "We teach our patients to live with the situation
they might have," she says.
She supervises exercises and can also reduce pain with massages, electrical
stimulation, paraffin baths and hot or cold packs.
As a PTA in an outpatient orthopedic office in New York, Nick Ciotoli says
the two most common problems he treats are neck and back injuries. PTAs also
help athletes, amputees and those with life-changing diseases, such as Parkinson's
and cancer. They help them to learn to live with their handicaps.
The only thing he doesn't do, says Ciotoli, is initially evaluate the patient
or prescribe an exercise routine. That is the job of the PT.
The PTA supervises the exercises and then updates the PT on the patient's
progress by writing notes after each treatment. Non-patient duties for a PTA
can include filling out insurance forms, calling insurance companies and ordering
PTAs work alongside PTs in a variety of settings. A large percentage of
PTAs work in hospitals or long-term care facilities. Others work in outpatient
rehab centers, physicians' offices and patients' homes. In sports physical
therapy, PTAs may work part of the time on the sidelines of a sports event.
The job can be physically demanding, especially in nursing homes, says
Peloquin. "I'm not saying that in order to be a PT assistant you have to go
to the gym and work out three times a week, but be prepared to pick up weights
and demonstrate exercises."
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Help injured people get stronger
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Physical Therapist Assistants
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