Physiotherapy assistant

A physiotherapy assistant


Physiotherapy assistants work under supervision, within defined contexts using agreed treatment protocols and procedures such as collecting client data and maintaining the equipment required in physiotherapy interventions. The overall responsibility is retained by the delegating professional.

Excludes physiotherapist.

Physiotherapy assistants typically do the following:

  • Administer treatment programmes as established by physiotherapists
  • Focus on providing the highest quality treatment for patients that allows for excellent patient outcomes
  • Assess patient condition using knowledge of basic biological and medical science
  • Propose treatment goals and objectives
  • Implement patient treatment plans with guidance from the physiotherapist
  • Perform certain aspects of patient evaluation and interventions
  • Instruct patients on physiotherapy interventions, modalities and home exercise programmes.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to physiotherapy assistant:

neuromusculoskeletal physiotherapy assistant
physiotherapy rehabilitation assistant
geriatric therapy assistant
manipulative physiotherapy assistant
respiratory physiotherapy assistant
neurological physiotherapy assistant
remedial physiotherapy assistant
neuromuscular physiotherapy assistant
therapy assistant
cardiovascular physiotherapy assistant
occupational physiotherapy assistant
physiotherapy care assistant
physiotherapist assistant
assistant physiotherapist

Working conditions

Physiotherapy assistants may work with individuals or groups of all ages and situations with a range of conditions, including:

  • neurological (stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s)
  • neuromusculoskeletal (back pain, whiplash associated disorder, sports injuries, arthritis)
  • cardiovascular (chronic heart disease, rehabilitation after heart attack)
  • respiratory (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis)

Physiotherapy assistants may work in hospitals and clinics, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes and assisted care facilities. They may also find employment with sports training programs, private practices, chiropractor offices, and orthopedic and geriatric medical offices. Some physiotherapy assistants may opt for home health care, where they provide treatment in the privacy and comfort of a patient’s homes.

Most physiotherapist assistants work full time, although part time work is common. Some work nights and weekends because many physical therapy offices and clinics have extended hours to accommodate patients’ schedules.

Minimum qualifications

Typically, a physiotherapy assistant needs an associate’s degree in physical therapy assisting. Individuals who have a bachelor’s degree have a greater range of employment options, and often earn a higher-than-average physiotherapy assistant salary.

In some jurisdictions, physiotherapy assistants are required to be certified or licensed.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Physiotherapy assistant is a Skill level 3 occupation.

Physiotherapy assistant career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to physiotherapy assistant.

dental hygienist
chiropractic assistant
dental chairside assistant
dental technician
pharmacy technician

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of physiotherapy assistant. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of physiotherapy assistant with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

advanced physiotherapist
specialist biomedical scientist
specialist pharmacist
specialist chiropractor

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of physiotherapy assistant.

  • Contribute to quality physiotherapy services: Participate in activities that promote quality, particularly in the acquisition and evaluation of equipment, resources, safe storage and supply management.
  • Respond to changing situations in health care: Cope with pressure and respond appropriately and in time to unexpected and rapidly changing situations in healthcare.
  • Educate on the prevention of illness: Offer evidence-based advice on how to avoid ill health, educate and advise individuals and their carers on how to prevent ill health and/or be able to advise how to improve their environment and health conditions. Provide advice on the identification of risks leading to ill health and help to increase the patients’ resilience by targeting prevention and early intervention strategies.
  • Inform policy makers on health-related challenges: Provide useful information related to health care professions to ensure policy decisions are made in the benefit of communities.
  • Contribute to continuity of health care: Contribute to the delivery of coordinated and continuous healthcare.
  • Promote health and safety policies in health services: Promote adherence to local, regional, national and EU Health and Safety legislation, policies, guidelines and protocols.
  • Use e-health and mobile health technologies: Use mobile health technologies and e-health (online applications and services) in order to enhance the provided healthcare.
  • Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
  • Record healthcare users’ progress related to treatment: Record the healthcare user’s progress in response to treatment by observing, listening and measuring outcomes.
  • Advocate health: Advocate for health promotion, well-being and disease or injury prevention on behalf of clients and the profession to enhance community, public and population health.
  • Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
  • Manage healthcare users’ data: Keep accurate client records which also satisfy legal and professional standards and ethical obligations in order to facilitate client management, ensuring that all clients’ data (including verbal, written and electronic) are treated confidentially.
  • Deal with emergency care situations: Assess the signs and be well-prepared for a situation that poses an immediate threat to a person’s health, security, property or environment.
  • Assist physiotherapists: Assist physiotherapists in the process involved in client management.
  • Provide health education: Provide evidence based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
  • Contribute to the rehabilitation process: Contribute to the rehabilitation process to enhance activity, functioning and participation using a person-centered and evidence-based approach.
  • Adhere to health well-being and safety: Comply with and apply the main points of health well-being and safety policy and procedures, in accordance with employer’s policies. Report health and safety risks that have been identified and follow the appropriate procedures if an accident or injury should occur.
  • Provide information on the effects of physiotherapy: Provide information on therapeutic outcomes and any inherent risks to the client making sure he/she understands, acting in accordance with ethical principles and local/national policies where the client does not have the capacity to understand.
  • Communicate effectively in healthcare: Communicate effectively with patients, families and other caregivers, health care professionals, and community partners.
  • Develop therapeutic relationships: Maintain the individual therapeutic relationship to engage the individual’s innate healing capacities, to achieve active collaboration in the health education and healing process and to maximise the potential of healthy change.
  • Provide learning support in healthcare: Provide the necessary support to facilitate learning for clients, carers, students, peers, support workers and other healthcare practitioners by assessing the learner`s development needs and preferences, designing agreed formal and informal outcomes of learning and delivering materials that facilitate learning and development.
  • Follow clinical guidelines: Follow agreed protocols and guidelines in support of healthcare practice which are provided by healthcare institutions, professional associations, or authorities and also scientific organisations.
  • Advise on healthcare users’ informed consent: Ensure patients/clients are fully informed about the risks and benefits of proposed treatments so they can give informed consent, engaging patients/clients in the process of their care and treatment.
  • Comply with quality standards related to healthcare practice: Apply quality standards related to risk management, safety procedures, patients feedback, screening and medical devices in daily practice, as they are recognized by the national professional associations and authorities.
  • Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
  • Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
  • Apply health sciences: Apply a broad range of bio-medical, psycho-social, organisational, educational, and societal aspects of health, disease, and healthcare to improve healthcare services and to improve quality of life.
  • Adhere to organisational guidelines: Adhere to organisational or department specific standards and guidelines. Understand the motives of the organisation and the common agreements and act accordingly.
  • Work in a multicultural environment in health care: Interact, relate and communicate with individuals from a variety of different cultures, when working in a healthcare environment.
  • Develop plans related to the transfer of care: Organise transfer of care, when applicable, across a range of healthcare settings, communicating effectively and ensuring that the patient/client and carers are involved in the decision making process.
  • Promote inclusion: Promote inclusion in health care and social services and respect diversity of beliefs, culture, values and preferences, keeping in mind the importance of equality and diversity issues.
  • Support discharge from physiotherapy: Support discharge from physiotherapy by assisting in the transition across the health care continuum, whilst ensuring that the agreed needs of the client are met appropriately and as directed by the physiotherapist.
  • Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carer’s, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguarding confidentiality.
  • Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
  • Collect healthcare user data under supervision: Collect qualitative and quantitative data related to the healthcare user’s physical, psychological, emotional and social status and functional ability within set parameters, monitoring healthcare user’s responses and status during the performance of assigned measures/tests and taking appropriate action, including reporting the findings to the physiotherapist.
  • Apply organisational techniques: Employ a set of organisational techniques and procedures which facilitate the achievement of the goals set. Use these resources efficiently and sustainably, and show flexibility when required.
  • Develop a collaborative therapeutic relationship: Develop a mutually collaborative therapeutic relationship during treatment, fostering and gaining healthcare users’ trust and cooperation.
  • Develop plans related to client discharge: Organise discharge planning, when applicable, across a range of healthcare settings, communicating effectively and ensuring that the client and carers are involved in the decision making process.
  • Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
  • Maintain physiotherapy equipment: Maintain the physiotherapy equipment and supplies, ensuring that equipment is safe and fit for purpose.
  • Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.

ISCO group and title

3255 – Physiotherapy technicians and assistants

  1. Physiotherapy assistant – ESCO
  2. Physiotherapy assistants / support workers | Health Careers
  3. Physical Therapy Assistants and Aides : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  4. Physiotherapy Assistant Job Description | Indeed
  5. Roles of Physiotherapy Assistants – Chron
  6. Featured image: By National Archives at College Park – National Archives Identifier: 81236233, Public Domain
Last updated on January 6, 2023

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