What Do Physical Therapists Do?
A physical therapist treats patients with neuromusculoskeletal conditions, such as low back pain, joint injuries, post-stroke symptoms, and cerebral palsy.
Physical therapists generally work with patients of any age for:
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- Recovery from an injury/surgery;
- Improvement of strength, flexibility, and balance
- Maintenance of mobility and function as they age.
- For this to be accomplished this for patients, physical therapists have to be able to; an
- Establish a friendly relationship.
- Review the medical history of patients.
- Manually evaluate and assess patients’ conditions and determine if P.T. would be appropriate.
- Create a detailed plan of care that includes the evidence-based treatment type, frequency, and duration necessary to achieve patients’ therapy, music goals.
- Teach patients how to safely perform daily activities and improve their progress with an at-home exercise program.
- Monitor the progress of patients with the use of outcome measurement tools.
- Be able to adjust the P.O.C. as necessary until patients reach their goal.
- It takes a passion for becoming a physical therapist. You have to love working and interacting with people. You have to be able to understand and relate to their pain, and also know how to calm their emotional turmoil.
Where Do Physical Therapists Work?
Physical therapists work in places like; private clinics, patient homes, hospitals, nursing facilities, schools, or sports arenas. They may also work with patients personally or work as part of a larger care team.
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Physical therapists also take on non-clinical roles, such as executive positions in healthcare companies. They could work as researchers, directors, teachers, writers, or consultants.
What Personality Traits Do You Need as a Physical Therapist?
Personality is of great essence to a physical therapist, as it can affect the willingness of patients to complete their course of care—and, in extension, their therapeutic outcome.
As an aspiring physical therapist, here are some essential traits you need to possess to attain success;
- Critical Thinking
- Passion for Functional Movement and Wellbeing
Steps to Follow to Become a Physical Therapist:
Start from High School
If you are about becoming a physical therapist, and you can start to prepare yourself for your career, even in high school. Here are some things you can do;
- Intern with a physical therapist to learn the details of what being a physical therapist means.
- Volunteer as a health care provider in hospitals, assisted living facilities, with disabled children. Doing this will help you learn to relate to your patients in preparation for your career.
- Take challenging science courses like; anatomy, biology, kinesiology, biomechanics, neuroscience, and exercise physiology.
- Get good grades and S.A.T. scores.
- Apply to colleges and universities that offer strong science programs.
- Explore freshman entry programs.
Continue in College
In college, ensure to;
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- Complete the required courses to be eligible for advanced study in physical therapy. Here are the prerequisite courses; (although they vary, depending on the school)
- Anatomy or Anatomy & Physiology 1 with lab
- Physiology or Anatomy & Physiology 2 with lab
- Biology 1
- Biology 2
- General Chemistry 1 with lab
- General Chemistry 2 with lab
- General Physics 1 with lab
- General Physics 2 with lab
- Get good grades, as they go a long way in being considered in graduate school applications. Therefore, good grades are a significant determinant in your future as a physical therapist.
- Intern with a physical therapist.
- Be a part of volunteer clubs and service initiatives.
- Ensure to apply for graduate programs.
To apply, you need:
- Good grades in your prerequisite classes
- Experience working with a licensed physical therapist
- Letters of recommendation from your professors and supervisors
- Strong standardized test scores on the GRE
- Well-formed personal statements
Proceed to Graduate School
As an aspiring physical therapist, you must participate in one physical therapy program programs, to be able to practice. Typically, it takes three years to earn your D.P.T.
You will need a combination of coursework and hands-on experience for these programs. In graduate school, you will be exposed to patients and taught how to apply your scientific knowledge to your practice.
In grad school, ensure to;
- Keep your focus on learning the material, instead of grades.
- Acquire hands-on experience outside of class.
- Take care of yourself to avoid burnout.
Now, off to Residency, You Go!
After earning your D.P.T., you can choose to be a generalist or specialist. You need to complete a clinical residency program if you want to work in specialized fields like:
- Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
- Clinical Electrophysiology
- Sports Physical Therapy
- Women’s Health
Your time in residency will help you gain the specific skills and knowledge needed by your patients, as you will get to work directly with the patients of your choice. You can decide to pursue further study.
Physical therapy residency programs usually last for about a year, after which you can continue doing another fellowship in a more advanced clinical are. You may also choose to start working with an employer or a private practice.
How Do You Go about Licensing?
After receiving the D.P.T., you are eligible to sit for your multiple-choice licensing exam, that is, the National Physical Therapy Examination (N.P.T.E.). Note:
the N.P.T.E. website states that just one part of the evaluation process is used by licensing authorities to assess peoples’ competences. Candidates should make inquiries from their jurisdictions on what additional requirements there are, like taking the jurisprudence exam.
This means that you need to properly review the licensure requirements in your state to be sure of what to expect before the time you graduate as a D.P.T.
What about Credentialing?
Here are the things you need to apply for credentials;
- malpractice insurance,
- an NPI,
- a physical clinic location, and
- a license to practice in your state.
As a physical therapist, you have to be able to work with both your body and mind and connect with people daily, and not everyone can do this. But if you think you can, and you want to, then continue to explore the numerous opportunities in the field, trying out the stipulated steps here. Good luck on your career path as a physical therapist!