Physical therapy provides a full range of diagnostic and therapeutic services, including balance training, occupational rehabilitation, soft tissue mobilization, and electrical stimulation, to recover a range of motion and coordination. Physical therapist assistants (PTA) and physical therapist aides work under the supervision of physical therapists, helping patients who are recovering from injuries regain movement and manage chronic pain. Further, they develop exercise programs that will help patients improve cardiovascular function, regain flexibility, and build muscle mass. All states require physical therapist assistants to have an associates degree from an accredited physical therapist assistant program. These programs typically last 2 years and include courses in algebra, English, anatomy, physiology, and psychology. PTAs gain hands-on experience during supervised clinical work rotations and may earn certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and other first-aid skills.
Other physical therapy interventions may include the following:
• Aquatic therapy
• Gait training
• Ice massage
• Massage therapy
• Mechanical traction
• Paraffin bath
• Strength exercises
• Therapeutic ultrasound
• Whirlpool bath
• Wound care
Licensure typically requires graduation from an accredited physical therapist assistant program and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam, administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Physical therapist aides, on the other hand, are not required to be licensed but earn less salary. Some states require that applicants pass additional state-administered exams, undergo a criminal background check, and be at least 18 years old. Employment of physical therapist assistants and aides is projected to grow 40 percent from 2015 to 2025, much faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual wage for physical therapist assistants and aides was $42,980 in May 2015.
Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing from chronic respiratory diseases, such as asthma or emphysema. Respiratory therapists need at least an associates degree, but employers may prefer applicants who have a bachelors degree. Courses deal with therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, equipment, patient assessment, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In addition to coursework, programs have clinical rotations that allow respiratory therapists to gain practical experience in treating patients. Average salaries in 2015 were about $57,790 per year, and employment of respiratory therapists is projected to grow 12% yearly through 2025.
Licensure requirements in most states include passing a state or professional certification exam. The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) offers two levels of certification: Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist. CRT is the first-level certification. Applicants must have earned an associate’s degree from an accredited respiratory therapy program, or completed a bachelors degree program, and pass an exam. The second-level certification is RRT certification, for candidates with several years of experience as a certified respiratory therapist.