Physiotherapy assistants/support workers
Physiotherapy assistants help patients to follow exercise and treatment programmes set out by registered physiotherapists
This page has information on the role of the physiotherapy support worker, including entry requirements and skills needed.
Working under the direction of a physiotherapist, your work as a physiotherapy assistant could involve:
- setting up equipment
- showing patients how to use mobility aids
- helping patients prepare for treatment (including helping with dressing and undressing)
- working on exercises with patients
- writing reports and updating patients’ records.
You 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)
You could be working in
- outpatients' departments
- women’s health
- elderly care
- stroke services
- mental health and learning disability services
- occupational health
Some physiotherapy assistants work in the local community. They could be based in health centres. Some treat patients in their own homes, nursing homes, day centres or schools. Others work in private clinics and voluntary organisations or charities.
As well as working with physiotherapists, physiotherapy assistants work with other healthcare professionals including occupational therapists, orthopaedic surgeons, prosthetists, orthotists and nurses. They spend a lot of time with patients.
‘We guide groups of people through exercises and relaxation techniques to help them manage chronic pain. We also teach patients how to use new walking aids, specify the fittings they may need to get around safely at home and run injection clinics for pain relief’.
Tahira Jabeen Razaq, physiotherapy assistant in Birmingham
There are no set entry requirements for physiotherapy assistants. Employers expect good numeracy and literacy and some experience or qualifications in health or social care. Employers may ask for GCSEs in English and maths. They may ask for a BTEC or equivalent vocational qualification in health and social care.
Employers often ask for relevant work experience. Even where this is not specified, it would be an advantage if you have worked in health or social care, either in paid employment or voluntary work. Apprenticeships in healthcare can provide you with experience to apply for physiotherapy assistant and other clinical support roles.
Personal characteristics and skills needed
Physiotherapy assistants need to be
- happy to be hands-on with patients
- willing to demonstrate exercises
- able to use gym equipment
- good listeners
- calm and understanding
- happy to talk to and work with groups
- able to follow procedures
- able to motivate people
- willing to work alone or in a team
- physically fit
You'll also need
- organisational skills
- good communication skills
- ability to explain treatment to patients
Training and development
You will be given the training you need to do the job, including an introduction to the department and its procedures and how to set up and use the equipment.
You may be offered the chance to study for qualifications such as
- the CACHE level 2 Certificate in Healthcare Support Services
- the CACHE level 2 or 3 Diploma in Clinical Healthcare Support
Physiotherapy assistants can become associate members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. The Society runs courses, conferences and seminars where physiotherapy assistants can update their skills and network with others doing similar work.
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Clinical support staff working in the NHS are paid on the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay system. As a physiotherapy assistant you will typically start on AfC band 2 or 3. With further training and experience, you could apply for more senior positions at band 4 - eg as an assistant practitioner. Physiotherapy assistants in the NHS work standard hours, which are likely to be around 37.5 a week. This may include evenings and weekends.
Terms and conditions will usually be different for clinical support staff working outside of the NHS.
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Most NHS trusts advertise their vacancies on NHS Jobs. Some advertise on their own websites. You can find a list of NHS organisations on NHS Choices. Opportunities outside the NHS may be found in sources including Universal Jobmatch
If you're applying for a role either directly in the NHS or in an organisation that provides NHS services, you'll be asked to show how you think the NHS values apply in your everyday work.
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