Department of Health Memorandum
Physical Therapy Aides
January 31, 1996
There have been a number of issues raised recently regarding the functioning of physical therapy departments in nursing homes. The more predominant discussion involves the use of aides in the physical therapy department and what tasks these individuals may perform and under whose supervision. The assistive tasks completed by the aides are not to be confused with what physical therapist assistants may perform based on their certification.
This informational announcement defines the use of physical therapy aides and was developed in consultation with the governing authority, the Office of the State Board for Physical Therapy of the State Education Department.
In New York, physical therapists and physical therapist assistants are recognized in statute; in contrast, the role of physical therapy aide is not officially recognized by licensure or certification. When personnel are permitted to function in that title, it is the responsibility of the nursing home to insure these individuals are appropriately trained, knowledgeable, and judged to be competent to perform limited resident specific activities as authorized by a licensed and currently registered physical therapist.
Resident related activities may include assisting with maintenance range of motion exercises and exercises to maintain strength and endurance in residents without related pathology, ambulation of residents who are on a maintenance physical therapy program, and providing superficial hot and cold applications. Physical therapy aides are not permitted to implement restorative or rehabilitative components of a physical therapy treatment plan. Non-resident related duties may include setting up and maintaining treatment areas, preparing and cleaning equipment, answering phones, and scheduling appointments.
Direction and supervision of a physical therapy aide must be provided by a physical therapist. This supervision must include meetings with and direct observation of the aide on a regular basis to assure activities are carried out as planned. Should the physical therapy aide require assistive direction and the physical therapist is not on-site, the skilled nursing facility must have in place, a policy that assists the physical therapy aide through the situation requiring intervention. A physical therapist assistant may supervise a therapy aide under the delegation of a supervising physical therapist.
The provision of maintenance care in a skilled nursing facility may be provided by a physical therapy aide who must be a certified Residential Health Care Facility (RHCF) nurse aide who is listed, in good standing, on the New York State RHCF Nurse Aide Registry. In addition to this basic requisite, the facility must be able to demonstrate additional training the therapy aide received from the physical therapist to carry out assistive resident related tasks, as well as a competency determination of the aide made by the therapist.
We urge you to use caution when assignments are made in your physical therapy department to personnel other than recognized physical therapy professionals. Should you have questions regarding this matter, you may contact Barbara A. Page of my staff at (518) 474-2052.
Robert S. Beattie
Bureau of Long Term Care Services