Physical Therapy Assistant
Physiotherapy is a specialized area of medicine that uses the action of artificial and natural factors of physical effect on the human body with the preventive and, which is the most important thing, with therapeutic purposes. Physiotherapy is a great assistant in the treatment of many diseases, which is usually used as a supplement to the basic treatment. Clynch (2012) stated that the profession of physical therapy developed in part due to two major events: the polio epidemic of the early 1900s and World War I. Both periods were characterized by the groups of people that needed rehabilitation, treatment, and education for improving their physical performance and skills. According to Clynch, (2012), Mary McMillian was the first physical therapist. She headed the group of women, who learned about the use of hydrotherapy and exercises for promoting recovery and strengthening.
Today, there are two kinds of assistants, who assist in physical therapy: physical therapist assistant and physiotherapy assistant. A physical therapist assistant works with a doctor to provide any physiotherapy appointments according to the physiotherapist and his care plan. Physical therapist assistant requires a special diploma of secondary special education as well as the passage of a national licensing exam. Physical therapist assistants are specialists in physical training, treatment, and methods of action. Unlike a physical therapist assistant, a physiotherapy assistant can be anyone with a high school diploma. Physiotherapy assistant is intended to assist physical therapists in everything from answering phone calls up to accompanying a patient for procedures. His or her job consists of monitoring the implementation of exercises by the patient, providing tools, such as crutches and general equipment for cleaning and collecting materials.
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About 25% of physical therapy assistants work in hospitals, while 9 % of them assist in living facilities (i.e., nursing homes) (How to Become a Physical Therapist Aide, n.d.). There are both full-time and part-time schedules. According to Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides (2014), The median annual wage for physical therapist assistants was $52,160 in May 2012.
Physiotherapy assistant has to know the basics of legislation on health care and basic legal documents that define activities of institutions and health care facilities, fundamentals of therapeutic and preventive care in hospitals and outpatient clinics, emergency medical care, disaster medicine service, sanitary-epidemiological service, and supply of drugs to health care facilities. The assistant has to possess the knowledge of theoretical foundations, principles, and methods of clinical examination, and organizational and economic bases of activity of health facilities and health workers in the budget and health insurance. There is a need to know the basics of social hygiene, organization and health economics, medical ethics and deontology, legal aspects of medical practice, general principles, and basic techniques of clinical, instrumental, and laboratory diagnosis of the functional state of organs and systems of the human body. Physiotherapy assistants should be well-studied in etiology, pathogenesis, clinical symptoms, characteristics of the course, the principles of integrated treatment of major diseases, and theoretical foundations and methods of physiotherapy. The physiotherapy assistant is directly subordinated to the head of the structural unit (Department Head). Physical therapist assistant works under the direction and control of physical therapists. He helps the patients who recover from traumas, injuries, and illnesses to retrieve movement and deal with pain. Therefore, his or her direct duty is taking care of patients.
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The assistant in physiotherapy performs preventive, curative, and rehabilitative measures that are prescribed by the doctor of the physiotherapy department. He or she conducts physiotherapy procedures. The assistant prepares physiotherapy equipment to work, supervises its serviceability, proper use, and safety. He or she prepares patients for physiotherapy procedures and monitors their status.
Duties of physiotherapy assistant include:
- Providing infectious safety of patients;
- Compliance with the requirements of sanitary and epidemiological supervision in the physiotherapy department;
- Timely and quality preparing of medical and other official documents;
- Ensuring proper safekeeping and using of medicines;
- Complying with moral and legal norms of professional communication;
- Conducting health education;
- Providing pre-hospital medical assistance in case of emergency;
- Competently and promptly performing the orders, directives, and instructions of management of the institution, as well as regulations for professional activities;
- Following the rules of internal regulations, fire protection, and safety, sanitary-epidemiological regime;
Promptly taking measures, including timely information to the management to eliminate violations of safety, fire protection, and sanitary regulations that threaten the health of the institution, its employees, patients, and visitors (Physical Therapy Assistant Job Description).
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Before starting work, the assistant should prepare to accept patients, test devices and their accessories, watch the heating of paraffin, mineral wax, and mud. According to Dreeben-Irimia (2013), after doctors inspect the patient, the assistant can take him or her to treatment if he or she has a medical history sheet, which shows the procedure and method of treatment. Having looked at the content of the latter, the assistant finds out the details of the procedure (localization, dosage, etc.), and then proceed to the exact implementation of these appointments. The assistant should consult a physiotherapist if there is any uncertainty in the appointment. The physiotherapy assistant makes a mark on the treatment in the medical history sheet. It should be remembered that the patient's procedures should be done by the same assistant and on the same apparatus. The patient should be put in a convenient position. To fix the electrodes on the face and neck, the assistant should have individual bandages. Before turning on the device, the assistant should carefully check it out and make sure that preparation for the procedure is performed correctly. He should not exceed the dose that is indicated by a physiotherapist. If the dose that is indicated in the medical history sheet is not accepted by the patient, it is necessary to lower it.
During the procedure, the assistant monitors the condition of the patient, asks about his or her health, and controls the work of devices, meter reading, sand, or alarm clock. In case the patient is feeling unwell, has a headache, dizziness, palpitations, nausea, or sudden increase in pain, the assistant should stop the procedure and call a physician. The physiotherapy assistant ensures that there is a first-aid kit on the wall with the necessary medicines and dressings in the cabinet. The assistant must show the maximum attention to the patient and provide the most careful treatment. All his or her actions must be such that the patient is filled with confidence and knowledge that the assistant is doing everything necessary for his or her recovery. To do this, the assistant should be neat, constantly monitor every move, should not speak loudly, cause the patient discomfort during preparation for a procedure, and carefully carry out his or her work. According to standards of ethical conduct for the physical therapist assistant (n.d.), physical therapist assistants must respect the rights and inherent dignity of every patient. They should be compassionate and trustworthy. At the end of the day, the assistant should turn off all cell phones and the main switch of the cabinet. Therefore, physical therapy assistants' job ensures a combination of various skills from physical strength to sensitivity to assist compassionately.