Magazine article The Elementary STEM Journal

Physical Therapists, PT Assistants, and Aides

Magazine article The Elementary STEM Journal

Physical Therapists, PT Assistants, and Aides

Article excerpt

The human boy is an amazing thing. With 206 bones and over 650 muscles, expertise in how these parts connect is a sought-after skill.

Physical therapists, called PTs, are experts in the human body's function and movement and use these skills to help people. Their job revolves around promoting their patients' ability to "move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability" (APTA). With such an important job, they can't do it alone; PTs frequently have both assistants and aides to help them ensure patients of all ages and backgrounds remain mobile and healthy.

Due to the nature of their work, people who work in physical therapy are frequently moving as they help care for patients. However, the work physical therapy teams do varies by the type of patient. Some PTs specialize in certain types of physical therapy--orthopedics or sports medicine, for example--while others help all sorts of patients with a variety of issues such as pain management or decreased mobility. This type of work requires a strong knowledge of human anatomy and problem-solving skills--that's a physical therapists' specialty. While all bodies are basically structured the same, what works for one patient will not necessarily be the right way for a second patient. Without being able to see inside the body, PT teams rely on observation and patient input to figure out the best way to treat pain and mobility issues. They also receive data and input from other members of a patient's health-care team, consulting with physicians and surgeons as well as their own assistants and aides to ensure the best outcome for their patients. Once they have a plan for a patient, therapy begins. The PT or assistant would help patients do specific exercises or use special equipment, and the aide may clean the equipment after helping book the next appointment.

With people living longer than ever before, this job market is expanding rapidly. Physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, and physical therapy aides are each listed as one of the top 20 fastest growing occupations (BLS). Physical therapists are required to have a professional degree and earn over $85,000 a year (BLS); 21 percent of PTs own their own practice, making them entrepreneurs, as well (APTA). To be a physical therapy assistant, a two-year degree is required, and these individuals make over $55,000 a year, while an aide position typically requires a high school diploma and on-the-job training making around $26,000 annually (BLS). …

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