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THE JOB Treating health problems by applying heat and exercise had its beginnings in ancient times. The healing value of hot baths, sunlight, and massage have been known for a long time. Before World War I, not many people knew about physical therapy. The American Physical Therapy Association was started in 1921, and the professional status of the field was established. The real worth of physical therapy was not recognized until World War II when medical teams in the armed forces were able to rehabilitate seriously injured patients. Their success caused more people in the medical field to appreciate the good that physical therapy could do. The two jobs described in this guide are very important to the physical therapy field. The people in them work as key members of the medical team that provides complete physical therapy to patients. PHYSICAL THERAPY ASSISTANTS are professional health care workers who provide various treatments under the direction of physical therapists. Typical duties include giving heat, light and sound treatments and massages and exercises that help heal muscles, nerves, bones and joints. They teach and motivate patients to learn or improve necessary activities such as walking, climbing and general mobility. Patients are watched during treatment, and their reactions and progress are recorded and reported to therapists by the Assistants. They fit patients for and teach them to use corrective equipment, which may be braces or artificial arms and legs or supportive devices such as wheelchairs. They track the progress of treatments by taking scheduled measurements. All of their duties are meant to help therapists restore physical ability in patients of all ages. PHYSICAL THERAPY AIDES are skilled health care workers who help Physical Therapists or Physical Therapy Assistants when a patient is getting treatment. They prepare patients by helping them dress and undress and by putting on and taking off supports and other helpful devices. They put them into therapy equipment and supports and turn and keep them stable during treatment. Routine treatments are carried out by Aides. They give water treatments and paraffen baths. They apply hot and cold packs, keep track of patients' condition during treatment and report signs of tiredness, distress or other problems. They take patients to and from treatment centers, using proper techniques according to the patients' condition. These workers also change bed sheets and pillow cases, keep treatment supplies in order, clean treatment areas, and sterilize or disinfect equipment and instruments. They also have clerical duties which include ordering supplies, filing medical records, and delivering messages. WORKING CONDITIONS Physical Therapy Aides and Assistants work on health teams with doctors, nurses, and occupational and physical therapists. They work in public and private hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, physical therapists' offices, and schools for the physically challenged. The buildings are well lighted, air conditioned, and nice to work in. Physical therapy work requires varying degrees of physical exertion, since it involves lifting and positioning patients. Good health and endurance are needed, and eyesight must be sharp enough to watch what the patient does during physical therapy treatments. EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK The California Projections of Employment, published by the Labor Market Information Division of the Employment Development Department, estimates that the number of Physical Therapy Assistants and Aides in California will reach 15,600 by 2005, an increase in new jobs of 7,260 over the number there was in 1993. There will also be an estimated 3,780 job openings due to people retiring or leaving the occupation. Added to the 7,260 new jobs expected, this makes for an estimated total of 11,040 job opportunities through 2005. (These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover.) Physical Therapy Assistants and Aides are in the Top Fifty Fastest Growth Occupations in California. Most of the employers that were surveyed in 1993 reported a bigger demand for Physical Therapy Aides than for Assistants, but both these jobs are expected to grow twice as fast as all other jobs. Those who are thinking of physical therapy as a career may want to start at the Aide level and get the practical experience and visibility necessary to promote to licensed Assistant jobs. WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS Physical Therapy Aides with no experience earn between minimum wage to $13.00 per hour. Those with some experience can make from the minimum to $14.00 per hour. Wages for Aides with three years or more with the same company range from $7.00 to $17.00 an hour. The wages for Physical Therapy Assistants are higher than Aides. Wages for Assistants with no experience range between $6.00 to $20.00 per hour. Those with some experience can earn $7.00 to $24.00 per hour. Assistants with three years or more experience with the same company can make between $8.25 to $27.00 per hour. Almost all employers offer paid vacation, sick leave, medical and life insurance, retirement plans, and dental and vision insurance. ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING Physical Therapy Aides get on the job training from Physical Therapists. Employers hire applicants who have a high school diploma or who have a certificate of equivalency. They require speaking and writing skills, readable handwriting, and the ability to read and follow instructions. Some employers hire only applicants who have completed at least a short vocational training program in physical therapy offered at some community colleges. Physical Therapy Assistants must be licensed by the California Physical Therapy Examining Board. There are two ways to qualify for the license. Graduates with an associate degree in Physical Therapy Assisting from an accredited school can apply for the examination. Physical Therapy Aides qualify if they have worked a minimum of three years as an Aide for a licensed physical therapist and have Board approved college coursework that relates to the occupation. This is an Application by Equivalency process. A list of accredited schools in California can be ordered from the California Physical Therapy Examining Board or from the California Chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association. ADVANCEMENT Promotional opportunity for Aides is fairly low. They may promote to the level of licensed assistant through Application by Equivalency, as was stated before. With experience, Assistants advance to staff training and development or to supervisory positions. Some decide to earn a bachelor's degree in physical therapy and move up to be fully qualified therapists. Taking an active role in educational conventions and workshops given by physical therapy professional associations is an excellent method of career development and advancement. FINDING THE JOB Applying directly to hospital and clinic physical therapy departments and to private practice therapists is still the best way to find a job for both experienced and trainee Physical Therapy Aides. Graduate placement programs of accredited Physical Therapy Assisting schools provide an important link between employers and students through the on campus recruitment program. Applying directly to hospital physical therapy departments and participating in professional associations often leads to employment. ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION American Physical Therapy Association 1111 North Fairfax Street Alexandria, VA 22314 (703) 684-2782 California Chapter, American Physical Therapy Association 1107 9th Street, Suite 1050 Sacramento, CA 95814-3690 (916) 446-0069 California Physical Therapy Examining Board 1034 Howe Ave. Suite 3291 Sacramento, CA 95825 (916) 263-2550 RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES Physical Therapists No. 117 OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev. 1) Physical Therapist Assistant 076-224.010 Physical Therapy Aide 355-354.010 OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System Physical Therapist Assistants & Aides 660170 Source: State of California, Employment Development Department, Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group, (916) 262-2162.Note: This is NOT a job opening. The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions. 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