Physical Therapy Aide Study Guide

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Core Competency Areas

The exam tests for 'Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities' (KSAs) in the following core competency areas:

2%History of Physical Therapy/Ethics

1%Physical Therapists


3%Physical Therapy

18%Medical Terminology


2%Infection Control


2%Body Alignment


2%Patient Care

11%Skeletal System

3%Diseases and Tests


8%Muscular System

16%Definitions and Acronyms


Topical Breakdown

Use the following topical guide to help you prepare for the exam:

I.  History Of Physical Therapy/Ethics (2%)

  • Mary McMillan
  • Code of Hammurabi

II.  Physical Therapists (1%)

  • PT must have a Bachelor’s Degree.
  • PT supervises Physical Therapy Aide.

III.  Specialists (1%)

  • What is a specialist?
  • Specialty medicines: Family Practice, Rehabilitation, Physical Medicine, Orthopedics

IV.  Physical Therapy (3%)

  • Physician is responsible for outlining rehab program and ordering PT.
  • Physical Therapy Aide may not change PT plan.
  • Does application of cold pack require physician order?
  • What are manual grading system ratings used for?

V.  Medical Terminology (18%)

  • Derived from Greek & Latin
  • Abbreviations: prn, qd, c, s
  • Prefixes: hyper-, hypo-, anti-, inter-, myo-, osteo-, arthro-, costo-.
  • Suffixes: -logist, -itis, -pathy, -logy, -plasty, -tomy, -ectomy
  • Anatomical planes: transverse, sagittal, frontal, coronal
  • Anatomical directions: anterior, posterior, distal, proximal, superior, inferior, lateral, media

VI.  Communication (3%)

  • Forms of communication: empathy, body language, tact, patience
  • Appointment book: openings vs. scheduled

VII.  Infection Control (2%)

  • Best way to break the chain of infection.
  • Growth conditions for microorganisms.
  • Define pathogen & non-pathogen.

VIII.  Orthotics (8%)

  • Parallel bars
  • Crutches (gaits: 2 point, 3 point, 4 point, swing through)
  • Crutch training
  • Lofstrand crutches (also known as?)
  • Walkers (elbow extension, ever used on stairs, Hemi walker)
  • Canes: Gait cycle, Parkinsonian gait, Coxalgic gait
  • Which orthotic provides the most stability to patient?
  • Proper placement of gait belt to lift patient
  • What are ambulatory devises used for?

IX.  Body Alignment (2%)

  • Define good body alignment.
  • Define good body mechanics.
  • Use leg muscles.
  • Squat, do not bend.

X.  Exercises/Rom/Reflexes/Treatments (18%)

  • Describe: Isometric, progressive, and active/passive ROM
  • Describe: Eversion, inversion, supination, and pronation
  • Describe: Achilles, Babinski, and Patellar reflexes
  • Describe: Ultrasound treatment, Infrared treatment
  • Define: Rotation, extension, hyperextension, flexion, hyperflexion, abduction, adduction
  • Define therapeutic treatments and the healing process.

XI.  Patient Care (2%)

  • Proper time for using a drape on patient
  • What is orthostatic hypotension?
  • Correct temperature of therapeutic pools

XII.  Skeletal System (11%)

  • How many bones are in the human body?
  • Skeletal muscles make up what percentage of body weight?
  • How many vertebrae are in the: cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine?
  • What is the total number of vertebrae in the human body?
  • What is the name of C-1 vertebra?
  • What is the name of C-2 vertebra?
  • Which bones are included in the axial skeleton?
  • Is the pisiform part of the axial or appendicular skeleton?
  • Where is the latissimus dorsi located?
  • Describe the following curvatures of the spine: lordosis, kyphosis, & scoliosis.
  • How many carpals are in the wrist?
  • What is the name of the only movable bone in the head?
  • The tibia is medial to which bone?
  • The fibula is proximal to ______.
  • The elbow, knee, and jaw are examples of ________ articulation.
  • Location of metacarpals, metatarsals, phalanges, and acetabulum.
  • Fractures: What is the difference in a simple, closed, and open fracture?
  • Describe: Greenstick, compound, transverse, and oblique fractures.

XIII.  Diseases and Tests (3%)

  • What is acromegaly?
  • Define: myasthenia gravis and muscular dystrophy
  • Define: gout, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Describe the following tests: US, MRI, CT, and PET
  • MRI, CT, EEG, EMG are used for what kind of tissue?

XIV.  Traction (2%)

  • Spinal traction
  • Skin traction: Describe: Hare traction, Russell traction, and Buck’s traction.

XV.  Muscular System (8%)

  • Muscles are named for ________?
  • Muscles contract and shorten to pull or push?
  • Muscles connect ________ to ________.
  • Ligaments connect ________ to _______.
  • Is skeletal muscle voluntary or involuntary muscle?
  • Is smooth, cardiac muscle voluntary or involuntary muscle?
  • Where is the Hamstring located?
  • Where is the Achilles tendon located?
  • Which part of the body does the sternocleidomastoid muscle move?
  • How long has Electroneural Stimulation been used in labs/clinics?

XVI.  Definitions and Acronyms (16%)

  • Epimysium
  • Myocardium
  • Perimysium
  • Endomysium
  • Prosthesis
  • Orthosis
  • Brace
  • Traction/Counter traction
  • Sprain/Strain
  • Ambulatory
  • Sympathy/empathy
  • Assault
  • Battery
  • Medical ethics
  • Abandonment
  • Negligence
  • False imprisonment
  • Libel/Slander
  • Good Samaritan Law
  • OSHA requirements
  • HIPPA (privacy)
  • PPE
  • Patient Care Partnership form
  • RACE, PASS, SOAP (charting), ROM.


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