Distance Learning Online Course of 12 Lessons
Prepare for a rewarding career as a valued member of the physical therapy team while learning all about the human body, specific disorders, and the way physical therapists treat these disorders. We’ll begin by exploring the history of physical therapy and the relationships between physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and physical therapy aides. You’ll get training on how to communicate effectively with other health care professionals and patients. You’ll also come to understand the medical documentation that physical therapists use and principles of ethics and law that affect the PT aide.
Physical therapists often use words and terms that may be unfamiliar to you, so we’ll devote some time to learning much of the language of PT. We’ll then spend two lessons studying the body’s 11 organ systems. You’ll learn the names of the organs in each system, their main functions, and some common disorders.
Health care professionals must take extra care to avoid the spread of infection, so we’ll go over that important subject. Along with infection control, you’ll learn proper body mechanics and how to safely move patients. We’ll also cover the normal gait cycle, and you’ll learn how to help patients walk with assistive devices like walkers, crutches, and canes.
Physical therapists use physical agents like heat, cold, ultrasound, and electricity to treat many of their patients, so we’ll explore these agents. You’ll learn when PTs use them and important precautions. We’ll move on to a discussion of exercise, and we’ll spend a lesson studying the principles of strengthening, aerobic, and range-of-motion exercises.
Holly Trimble has a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Colorado and a master’s degree in pediatric physical therapy from Boston University. She completed an additional 15 credit hours in education at the doctoral level. She taught math and science to sixth-graders for several years at a private school, and also worked as a private tutor for children with learning disabilities. She has lectured on health-related topics to all age groups, from school-age children to adults, and has been a guest speaker at colleges and universities including Wellesley College, Boston College, MIT, and Boston University. She is also an adjunct professor, teaching college-level anatomy and physiology courses online and in the classroom.
This course run for six weeks, with a two-week grace period at the end. Two lessons are released each week for the six-week duration of the course. You do not have to be present when the lesson is released, but you must complete each lesson within two weeks of its release.
A new section of each course starts on the second or third Wednesday of each month. If enrolling in a series of two or more courses, please be sure to space the start date for each course at least two months apart.
Wednesday – Lesson 01
In our first lesson, I’ll introduce you to the profession of physical therapy (PT). You’ll learn about the history of PT and how two wars and an epidemic created a need for this profession. To help you understand what makes PTs different from other health care professionals, we’ll discuss the types of patients who need PT and the types of treatment PTs use. You’ll understand the important difference between PTs, PT assistants, and PT aides as you come to understand the special role of PT aides.
Friday – Lesson 02
As a PT aide, you’ll communicate with many different people, so in today’s lesson, we’ll focus on the communication skills you’ll need to help you communicate with your supervising PT, patients, and their families. You’ll learn about some of the challenges you’ll face when communicating with sick or injured people, and how to demonstrate the traits of empathy, respect, and patience. We’ll also spend some time on SOAP notes—the method many medical personnel use to document their evaluations and patient treatments.
Wednesday – Lesson 03
This very important lesson will help you stay out of trouble because today, we’ll discuss law and ethics for the PT aide. You’ll learn the differences between law and ethics and why you must be concerned about both. We’ll go over the American Physical Therapy Association’s Code of Ethics, relating its principles to PT aides. We’ll also talk about the American Hospital Association’s A Patient’s Bill of Rights so you’ll know how you should treat patients in different situations. You’ll want to understand both negligence and malpractice, so we’ll cover those topics, too. Finally, we’ll spend some time on the very important topic of patient confidentiality. You can face stiff penalties if you violate patient confidentiality, so I want to make sure you thoroughly understand this topic.
Friday – Lesson 04
Have you ever noticed that every profession has its own unique language? The health care profession is no different. As a PT aide, it’s vitally important that you understand the language that PTs use, so we’ll focus on that in this lesson. We’ll cover planes of the body and directional terms. You’ll also learn the terms that define the body’s major regions and body cavities. The movements of joints have special names, so I’ll define them and share lots of graphics that demonstrate these movements. We’ll finish with some other terms related to function and movement in the last chapter.
Wednesday – Lesson 05
In this lesson, we’ll begin our discussion of the body’s organ systems. We’ll go over how your body is organized, from atoms to an entire individual. We’ll discuss the muscular, skeletal, nervous, endocrine, circulatory, and lymphatic systems. You’ll learn about the organs in each of these systems, the jobs they perform, and disorders affecting these systems that are commonly treated by PTs.
Friday – Lesson 06
We’ll continue our discussion of the organ systems in this lesson. To start out, we’ll go over how our organ systems are interrelated and how a problem with one system will affect the others. We’ll then move on to a discussion of the integumentary (skin), digestive, urinary, respiratory, and reproductive systems. Just like in Lesson 5, you’ll learn about each system’s organs, function, and some common disorders. We’ll finish the lesson with a discussion of the most important concept in human physiology—homeostasis. Homeostasis means the drive of your body to keep many different variables, like blood pressure and temperature, within a certain range. I’ll tell you why this is so crucial and how you might be asked to monitor homeostasis while caring for patients.
Wednesday – Lesson 07
We’ll start discussing specific safety issues in this lesson, focusing on infection control. Anyone working in healthcare must understand the meaning of infection, its causes, and how its spreads. To help you understand this, we’ll discuss the chain of infection and what you can do to break that chain so infection doesn’t spread from one person to another. We’ll spend some time on an infection called MRSA because it’s so common and dangerous. Since proper hand hygiene is the most effective way to stop infection from spreading, we’ll go over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines. We’ll also talk about patient-care equipment, environmental control, and the role of vaccinations.
Friday – Lesson 08
We’ll discuss important safety issues again in this lesson, but this time, instead of infection, we’ll focus on proper body mechanics and safe patient transfers. Body mechanics means the posture of your body and how you move it. You must understand proper body mechanics to protect yourself from injury. We’ll start out with a discussion of the anatomy of the spine since the spine gets hurt most often when we ignore proper body mechanics. We’ll talk about proper posture and the importance of paying attention to your center of gravity. We’ll also go over a list of principles for using proper body mechanics and guidelines for moving patients in a variety of different situations. We’ll end with a discussion of lifting machines, which PTs now commonly use to transfer patients.
Wednesday – Lesson 09
Most of us take walking for granted, but many patients must learn to walk again after an illness or injury. PTs often ask their aides to help with this, so you must understand what types of conditions make it hard for people to walk. You should also understand the normal gait cycle, so I’ll spend some time on that topic and tell you about common deviations from normal gait. We’ll spend quite a bit of time discussing different ambulatory devices including parallel bars, walkers, crutches, and canes and how they’re used in PT.
Friday – Lesson 10
PTs use physical agents, rather than medications or surgery, to treat patients. These agents include heat, cold, ultrasound, traction, and electricity. To explain these agents, we’ll start with a discussion about the relationship between a disease or injury and one’s ability to perform activities of daily living. We’ll then follow a fictitious Mrs. Smith as she struggles to recover from a car accident. You’ll learn about the physical agents her PT chooses and how they affect her body. We’ll end with a discussion of contraindications (when an agent should never be used) and precautions (when an agent must be used with extra care).
Wednesday – Lesson 11
Along with physical agents, PTs use exercise to treat patients. In this lesson, I’ll introduce you to three types of exercise—strength training, aerobic exercise, and range-of-motion exercise. You’ll learn how muscles are put together and why resistance is necessary to build strength. I’ll teach you about three important principles you should know when supervising a strength training program. We’ll also go over aerobic exercise, and you’ll learn how it increases a person’s ability to use oxygen. Finally, you’ll learn about range-of-motion exercises. You’ll find out how PTs measure how far a patient can move a joint and why joints sometimes become limited in their motion. We’ll talk about different types of range-of-motion exercises and important principles to follow.
Friday – Lesson 12
In our final lesson, we’ll explore balance, coordination, and developmental delays. We’ll focus on children in this lesson, although the information will be helpful if you’re treating adults, too. You’ll learn about a special sensory system called the vestibular system and how important it is for maintaining balance. I’ll give you examples of activities PTs use to treat children with balance problems, and you’ll learn about the adaptive response—something PTs continually look for when treating children. We’ll move on to a discussion of developmental coordination disorder, and you’ll learn how important it is for professionals to properly diagnose this condition. We’ll end this course with the subject of developmental delays. You’ll learn about developmental milestones and how PTs treat children who fail to meet those milestones. We’ll also discuss how PTs use developmental activities with adults who have sustained traumatic brain injuries.