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What Is a Physical Therapist and How to Become One

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Physical therapists, or PTs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, help injured clients with mobility and pain management. Individuals in need of rehabilitation or those who suffer from chronic conditions rely on PTs to improve their range of motion, strengthen injured muscles, and correct alignment issues. Physical therapists should have a thorough knowledge of a patient's medical history and should be in frequent communication with the patient’s primary care physician. It is also their job to track patient progress, modify treatment plans, and educate the patient’s family on stretches and other aftercare.

What Are the Education Requirements for Physical Therapists?

In order to pursue a career as a physical therapist, the Bureau of Labor statistics states that you must hold a bachelor’s degree. Next, you must apply to a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). You will spend three years studying subjects such as anatomy, biomechanics, physiology, and neuroscience. You will also be required to complete at least thirty weeks of clinical work before earning their Doctor of Physical therapy (DPT) degree.

Where Are the Top Places to Work as a Physical Therapist?

PTs have numerous options when it comes to where they can work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical offices such as physical, occupational, and audiologists are the most popular work environments. Next in popularity are state, local, and private hospitals. Less common options include home healthcare, nursing and residential care facilities, and self-employed work.

What Are the Different Types of Physical Therapy?

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, there are numerous specialties within the PT field. A physical therapist may work in a medical facility, performing intensive rehabilitation or subacute rehabilitation exercises on patients. They may also operate out of an outpatient clinic or private practice, treating patients with less urgent neuromuscular and musculoskeletal injuries or illnesses. PTs may also choose to pursue a career in hospice. These therapists deal mainly in pain management and quality of life improvements for clients with incurable health conditions.

Physical Therapist Job Description Sample

With this Physical Therapist job description sample, you can get a good idea of what employers are looking for when hiring for this position. Remember, every employer is different and each will have unique qualifications when they hire for a Physical Therapist role.

Job Summary

We are seeking an experienced and caring physical therapist to join our growing clinic. This individual would act as our patients' partner and advocate on their road to recovery, from diagnosis to the completion of rehabilitation. Patient quality of life, range of motion, and overall safety should be the sole focus of any candidate applying for this position.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Meet with patients and identify needs and goals
  • Devise detailed treatment plans to achieve needs and goals
  • Exercise personal judgment (i.e., make modifications as needed) during treatment execution to ensure patient safety and continued progress
  • Motivate and encourage patients throughout treatment process
  • Devise detailed exercise techniques, stretches, and self-care programs for patients to complete between sessions
  • Evaluate effects of therapy and keep detailed records of patient appointments and progress
  • Communicate with patients' physicians regularly to ensure consistent care
  • Reduce patients' need for medications and surgeries by improving range of motion, strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance
  • Comply with federal and state physical therapy regulations
  • Maintain patient confidentiality

Requirements and Qualifications

  • Proven work ethic and dedication to patient care throughout the recovery process
  • Ability to communicate and adapt to different patients and personalities
  • Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written
  • A high level of professionalism and personal ethics
  • Extensive education in the field of physical therapy as well as clinical experience
  • A thorough knowledge of current treatment practices
  • A valid licence to practice physical therapy
  • CPR and first aid certification a plus