Physical Therapy Aide
Physical therapy aides are members of physical therapy support teams. Working under the direct supervision of licensed physical therapists and licensed physical therapy assistants, physical therapy aides perform non-patient related activities such as secretarial, clerical, and housekeeping tasks. Additionally, aides may act as an extra set of hands for the physical therapist or physical therapist assistant who is actually providing the treatment.
New York State law restricts the practice of physical therapy to licensed physical therapists or certified physical therapist assistants. Individuals who are not licensed or certified may not provide physical therapy services.
It’s important to note the distinction between physical therapy aides and physical therapy assistants:
- Physical therapy aides are un-licensed healthcare personnel that may work in a variety of settings with assigned non-patient contact responsibilities.
- Physical therapy assistants are certified healthcare professionals with increased responsibilities and patient contact. The education for a physical therapy assistant requires an associate’s degree from an accredited college or university and successful testing for state licensure.
Note: The Department of Health Memorandum for Physical Therapy Aides describes conditions for a physical therapy aide’s role in a long-term care (LTC) facility. In New York State, in an LTC facility, a certificate as a Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) must first be held for an individual to be employed as a hands-on aide in a physical therapy environment.
Physical Therapy Aide Program of Study
Physical therapy aide programs of study deliver a curriculum which provides students with knowledge and skills related to the field of physical therapy. Program components may include; clerical tasks and administrative responsibilities, infection control and isolation techniques, medical terminology and patient communication, principles of common musculoskeletal disorders, treatment modalities and exercise, and CPR. The didactic learning combined with supervised clinical experience (see below) comprises a program of study.
Health sciences education prepares secondary and adult students for employment in the health care industry and for postsecondary education. The three integral components of all health sciences programs of study are a health science education core curriculum, content specific curriculum, and supervised clinical experience.
Health Sciences Core Curriculum
A health sciences education core curriculum serves as the foundation to prepare students for individual health sciences careers and must include Health Science Learning Standards.
The National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE) Health Science Standards are acceptable learning standards on which to develop the Health Sciences Core as part of a Health Sciences program of study.
Supervised Clinical Experience
- Affiliation agreement(s) must be established (a written contract with partnering healthcare facilities).
- Students may enter a clinical setting only after receiving prior program instruction, demonstrating related skill and knowledge, all under supervision by the school’s program instructor.
- 108 hours (1 unit) of clinical experience must be conducted in a work setting as defined by the program of study.
- Scopes of practice under various state licensures must be considered when developing hands on activities in implementation of health sciences programs.