What does a Physical Therapy Aide do?

A physical therapy aide typically assists a physical therapy assistant or physical therapist in a variety of patient care and facility maintenance functions. He generally works under close supervision. He is commonly employed by a clinic, hospital, rehabilitation facility or nursing home.

Physical therapy normally consists of a mixture of movements and exercises to offer pain relief caused by chronic illness, injury or disease. It is also a common treatment for patients with limited mobility in their arms, legs, feet or hands. A physical therapy aide normally helps these patients perform these exercises or helps them use equipment designed to facilitate physical movement.

The range of people for whom a physical therapy aide provides assistance is wide and varied. He may assist the elderly whose mobility is impaired by age or common ailments like arthritis that limit body movement. Handicapped children are also commonly assisted by these aides, as are amputees and paralysis victims.

Besides physically helping people move parts of their body, a physical therapy aide often provides comfort and relief through external applications. He may soothe muscles with massage therapy or implement light, heat or cold applications to relieve aches and pains. Another common job of a physical therapy aide is to instruct patients on how to manipulate prosthetic devices, walk with leg braces or operate wheelchairs or walkers.


Verbal communication skills are important to perform this job, as most patients, regardless of their physical challenges, require words of support and encouragement as they cope with their daily routines. A good physical therapy aide motivates his patients and compliments their efforts. He is also generally required to document patients’ physical progress and is frequently asked to comment on their psychological attitudes regarding their progress.

Aside from helping patients, a physical therapy aide is frequently required to maintain the equipment and clean the rooms in which the therapy is provided. He may also be asked to assist in general office duties like filing and record maintenance. In some instances, the aide may be asked to answer phones, order supplies or fill out inventory request forms. If a patient requires transport to another building or room, the aide is commonly asked to provide it.

To qualify for this position requires a high school diploma or equivalent. Many physical therapy aides have associate degrees or certificates in physical therapy assistance. Some areas require these aides to be licensed. Most facilities provide on-the-job training. Work experience in a medical or clinical environment is considered a plus for applicants.



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