What Do Physiotherapist Assistants Do?

March 15th, 2022

We all have heard the term physiotherapy at some point in our lifetime whether through a personal experience or knowing a friend, partner, or family member that has undergone the therapy. Physiotherapy (the term “physical therapy” is also used in Canada and is considered the legal equivalent of “physiotherapy”) is often prescribed to help restore and maintain movement, function, strength, and overall well-being.

physiotherapy assistant helping a client with therapy Physiotherapy assistants help patients with exercises and stretches and educate them on what to do after treatments.

Physiotherapist assistants (PTAs) provide support to physiotherapists (PTs) and work under their direct supervision.  In this article, we will go through the differences between the two professions, what physiotherapist assistants do, and the skills required for this profession.

Difference Between Physiotherapists and Physiotherapist Assistants

The biggest difference between the two is that physiotherapists do the initial assessment of patients, draft a rehabilitation plan, and outline clear goals. They also teach patients stretches and exercise techniques to improve their condition and perform higher-risk treatments such as acupuncture or joint manipulation. A PTA cannot set up the care plan or do an initial evaluation with a patient; the patient receives the treatment plan from a PT. Once a plan of care has been decided, PTAs work closely with a patient, taking responsibility for most of the routine and low-risk treatments, such as teaching clients how to use their crutches or applying hot packs.

The great thing about becoming a physiotherapy assistant is that you can enter the field in a short amount of time. It’s true that PTs are paid higher, but their student loans are higher too.

Physiotherapist Assistant Job Responsibilities

As a PTA, you won’t be drafting treatment plans and making decisions about the therapy, but you will help clients by putting their recommended therapy into practice. You can also make recommendations and adjust plans with the approval of the supervising PT.

PTAs work with clients of all ages in hospitals, medical clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation centres, physiotherapist offices, and sports clinics. They conduct a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities including:

  • Administering physiotherapy treatments prescribed by the physiotherapist
  • Conveying instructions to patients, such as how to perform certain exercises and gait training
  • Helping clients use equipment properly and safely
  • Documenting treatment and progress after each therapy session
  • Preparing treatment areas
  • Maintaining inventory of equipment supplies
  • Maintaining and cleaning medical equipment
  • Teaching patients to walk with assistive devices

Physiotherapist assistants need to regularly communicate with physiotherapists and their clients; for this reason, strong listening and communication skills are essential for the role. Along with effective communication, having compassion is also important. PTAs will work with clients of different ages and backgrounds who are often struggling physically and emotionally. Sometimes, what is most needed is taking the time to understand and acknowledge the client’s feelings and offering words of encouragement and support.

According to Laura-Beth Falter, registered physiotherapist, PTA instructor, and Faculty Head at triOS College, physiotherapist assistants need a strong work ethic. “They need to be reliable, organized, and adaptable. They are partly responsible for the well-being of vulnerable people, so PTAs need to be at work on time everyday and follow through with the tasks they’ve been assigned. Second, PTAs need to work well in a team. They need to understand and respect everyone’s role in the healthcare team and communicate well to make sure the whole team is providing effective care. PTAs also need to be open to learning and improving their skills. The physiotherapy field is so broad, PTAs will need to continue to learn and grow throughout their career to adapt to changes in their scope of practice. Finally, physiotherapist assistants will find it easier and safer to do their job if they are physically fit. Regardless of the setting, most physiotherapist assistants will be up and moving throughout the day, performing physical tasks such as showing clients exercises, or helping people with disabilities get up for a walk.”

Physiotherapy Assistant Salary

How much you make as a physiotherapist assistant is dependent on the province you work in, your experience, and the practice setting you are working for such as schools, hospitals, private clinics, long-term care facilities, and government organizations.

Canadian physiotherapist assistants earn anywhere between $22.81 and $32.13 according to Job Bank. In Ontario, the median and high wage is $18 to $30.68/hour.

Physiotherapist Assistant Program

With the rise in Canada’s ageing population and the number of people playing sports, the demand for physiotherapy is only increasing. If you are looking for a rewarding and dynamic healthcare career, you may want to consider becoming a physiotherapist assistant. No two days will be the same. You will interact with people throughout the day and your skills can help them live a better quality of life.

The physiotherapy assistant’s role requires a lot of knowledge, which is why specialized training is a must. The first step is to take a Physiotherapy Assistant course that includes CPR and First Aid training.

Gain a qualification in under a year with triOS College’s Physiotherapy Assistant Program. 

Click to learn about our Occupational Therapy Assistant or our Physiotherapy Assistant and Occupational Therapy Assistant program.