Top 15 Physical Therapist Assistant Skills to be best on the Job

By | February 1, 2017
Physical Therapist Assistant skills and qualities

Physical Therapist Assistants need to have certain skills and qualities to be best on their job.

Top 15 Physical Therapist Assistant Skills to be best on the Job

The job of a physical therapist assistant requires certain skills and qualities to be effective on it.

This post shows the skills you need to develop if you are already an assistant to a physical therapist or one aspiring to get into the career to be able to give your best performance and be successful in it.

Keep reading, but first …

Who is a Physical Therapist Assistant?

A physical therapist assistant (PTA) is someone who works under the direction and supervision of a physical therapist, helping patients who are recovering from illnesses or injuries to regain movement, and to manage pain.

Assistants to physical therapists perform varieties of tasks, including observing patients, before, during, and after therapy, and taking note of their status and reporting to a physical therapist; keeping the treatment area clean and organized, helping patients engage in specific exercises, using different techniques such as stretching and massaging to treat patients; using devices and equipment such as walkers to help patients, educating patients and family members on what step to take after treatment. See detailed physical therapist assistant job description.

Physical therapist assistants work in different environments such as hospitals, treatment homes, healthcare facilities, schools, government provinces, and individual homes, performing physical therapist assistant duties.

Listed below are top 15 physical therapist assistant skills and qualities to be best on the job and succeed in your career:

1. Great Interpersonal Skills: Physical therapist assistants should be able to interact with clients, families, groups, and team members from various cultural, emotional, intellectual, and social backgrounds. They should also always show courtesy and display friendly attitude.

2. Decision-Making: There may be emergency situations that require physical therapist assistants to make decisions on their own without calling anybody. They need to recognize situations that are not safe for the patient and react in an appropriate timely manner. They ought to read and make adjustments on measuring devices, meters, and scales.

3. Ability to Operate Equipment: Physical therapist assistants should be able to operate and monitor various types of electrical and mechanical therapeutic equipment and devices which involves adjusting gauges, dials, small nuts and bolts, settings, tape measures, small tools, and more, using them safely, effectively and reliably.

4. Detail Oriented: Physical therapist assistants should be organized and have a keen eye for detail. They need to keep accurate records and follow written and verbal instructions carefully to ensure high quality care.

5. Physical Stamina: Physical therapist assistants are always on their feet and moving from one spot to another as they work with patients. Most times they are required to bend, stoop, kneel and stand for long periods. For this reason they should be physically fit all day long.

6. Dexterity: Physical therapist assistants should comfortably use their hands to provide manual therapy and therapeutic exercises, working with their hands to set up equipment and prepare treatment areas.

7. Active Listening: The full attention of a physical therapy assistant is needed when other people are talking. In order for a physical therapy assistant to avoid making unnecessary interruptions and asking inappropriate questions, they need to give full attention to others and take time to understand the points being made.

8. Compassion: Helping people should be the delight of every physical therapy assistant. When a patient is in severe pain, the love, care and empathy of a physical therapy assistant are most needed.

9. Communication Skills: Physical therapist assistants should be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients. They ought to communicate efficiently in oral and written form with all members of the healthcare team. Even reading and understanding signs are part of communication, and should be practiced by physical therapist assistants.

10. Observation: It is expedient for physical therapist assistants to understand the functional use of sense of smell, sense of vision, and tactile sensation when assisting a patient. They should be able to observe a patient accurately near and far.

11. Mobility: Physical therapist assistants should be able to assist clients to move from room to room, providing safe and effective patient care in a timely manner. Patients feel less pain and enjoy the feel of atmosphere when they are moved around.

12. Problem Solving Skills: With good problem solving skills, physical therapist assistants can easily identify complicated issues within the working environment, and review related information to explore different values and options for implementation of possible solution.

13. Sensory Ability: Physical therapist assistants need to have sensory ability to be able to observe clients’ status, and apply equipment in administering safe and effective treatment to patients.

14. Systems Analysis and Evaluation: Physical therapist assistants need to understand how systems work and how changes in conditions, operations, and environment will affect outcomes. They should identify measures of system performance and the actions needed to correct or improve performance in line with the goals of the system.

15. Critical Thinking: Physical therapist assistants should be able to use logic and reasoning skills to discover the weaknesses and strengths of alternative options, approaches, or conclusions to issues.


If you are a physical therapist assistant who wants to excel on your job, then the above skills and qualities are worth developing.

Also, a physical therapist needing to hire a good assistant will be able to get one by making some or all of the above qualities part of the requirement for the job.

Do you find the above qualities and skills useful in becoming a good physical therapist assistant? Please, share your take on this post in the comment box below. Also, if you have additional skills you have found helpful in your job as a physical therapist assistant, please share it.

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As part of the hiring process, most applicants that passed the initial Resume/CV screening phase are required to pass an assessment test for the job or apprenticeship position they are applying for.

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