Among the vast number of careers available to one who has completed basic education, is a career in physical therapy. It is best to start the discussion on physical therapy with first of all finding out more about the concept of physical therapy. Physical therapy or physio therapy, as it is also known as, is basically a set of treatments that help in building an individual’s strength, enable the individual the freedom of movement and ultimately help him/her in attaining the skills that are necessary for him/her to complete the various daily activities of his or her profession. Physical therapy is therefore advised for children that have sustained injuries or those that have certain problems in carrying out movements as a result of an illness, a disability or a disease. In the course of the physical therapist’s responsibilities therefore, he/she will need to firstly bring about a decrease in the pain level of the affected kid and thereafter ensure that the kid returns to the daily activities. In order to achieve this, the therapist must teach the affected kid certain exercises that are so designed that they will help the patient to regain the necessary strength as well as acquire the ease with which to carry out the required range of motions. There is also a necessity for the therapist to advise the patient’s parents the way by which similar disabilities can be avoided in future.
It must be appreciated that physical therapy is a clinical health science and not an alternative therapy. The physicaltherapists therefore will need to study subjects dealing with the medical science. These include anatomy and physiology as well as neuroscience. The therapist will have to acquire the required standard of health education so that his patient’s condition can be ascertained and thereafter the proper treatment effected to hasten rehabilitation. Physical therapy is needed in diverse cases. These include sports injuries and developmental delays. Such therapy is also necessary at times in cases of genetic disorders, cerebral palsy and disabilities or injuries due to orthopedic reasons. In order to assess the patient’s condition, the physical therapist may need to measure a child’s strength or flexibility. He may have to analyze the manner in which the child walks or runs. The vast range of physical therapy prescribed may include activities that help restore balance and/or coordination, developmental activities like crawling or walking as well as water therapy and the use of massage, heat/cold and ultrasound. The range of physical problems dealt with by the physical therapist may involve systems of the body that include nerves and muscles, muscular and skeletal systems,cardio vascular systems as well as respiratory systems.
The career of a physical therapist is challenging as well as paying. It is therefore important to know how one can become a physical therapist. The ultimate plan being to achieve the degree level, one must first of all complete an undergraduate program. For this, no specific majors are necessary at the undergraduate level. However, there are doctoral programs that require at least a 3.0 as the minimum undergraduate GPA at the entrance. There are several programs in physical therapy that may require the applicants to complete prerequisites in subjects that include physiology and anatomy besides psychology, physics and chemistry. This will have to be borne in mind by students right at the outset.
The second step is to earn your graduate degree. Physical therapy aspirants will need to complete their degree programs as accredited by the CAPTE (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education). The DPT or Doctor of Physical Therapy programs will in general take three academic years to complete. This includes classroom as well as laboratory instruction, in-patient examinations and evaluation besides orthotics and prosthetics, medical screening, diagnostics as well as supervised clinical experience. It is necessary that students use their time profitably in gaining the exposure to the various clinical specialties. These include children’s physical therapy and neurorehabilitation. One will also need to start planning in obtaining a specialization in any particular field in the days to come.
The next step is to earn the licensure that is to be obtained from the state in which you practice. Once you have completed the accredited program in physical therapy you will need to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination that is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. This examination is for the assessment of the applicant’s competency in theory, practice and consultation in physical therapy.
One will have to attend a Residency Program after one has completed graduate school. The residency programs according to the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) comprise of 1500 hours of clinical physical therapy practice within a period of between 9 and 36 months. In these programs, residents are able to examine and give the diagnosis of patients while being supervised by licensed physical therapists during their training in a specialty.
The final step involves certification through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties or ABPTS. This offers 8 different designations. The common specialties include geriatrics and neurology as well as orthopedics and sports. Those that are certified will invariably be licensed physical therapists that have a minimum of 2000 hours of practice in a specialty of their choice. For certification, all applicants will need to pass a certification examination of 200 questions that test both their knowledge and skills in their specialty.
A very pertinent issue concerns the salary a physical therapist gets. In 2014 the Bureau of Labor Statistics quoted $ 39.61 per hour to be the median wage for physical therapists, the median annual wage being $83,940 while the top ten percent of the physical therapists took home more than $116,090. It was also found that the highest paying skills in this job were in long term care, home health or home care and geriatrics. It was also observed that there was a difference in the pay depending upon the location. Therefore, Los Angeles therapists seemed to earn 12% more than the national average while those from Chicago or New York earned less than the national average which was $70,583 in this study.
A study conducted to determine the career path and job outlook of physical therapy found that the percentage growth in employment was around 36% till 2022 against a similar growth of around 11% for all occupations while for health diagnosing and treating practitioners the figure was around 20%. This indicated that the employment of physical therapists is expected to grow much faster than the estimated average in respect of all occupations. This demand for the services of physical therapists is expected to come from those who are currently far more active in life when compared to their counterparts from the earlier generations. Such class of old persons is expected to experience more strokes and heart attacks besides injuries related to mobility issues and all these require physical therapy for their rehabilitation. There is also a steady growth in the incidence of lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes. A larger number of physical therapists will be necessary to help such patients in maintaining their mobility as well as managing the effects resulting from chronic conditions.
According to a study, physical therapists held around 204,200 jobs in 2012. These professionals typically worked in nursing homes, hospitals, clinics and private offices. The percentage of employment defining the work environment in respect of physical therapists was 33% for those who worked in the offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists. 28% worked in hospitals and various healthcare services in hospitals or private facilities and around 11% professionals were employed in providing home healthcare services. The balance 10% therapists worked in the offices of physicians and in nursing and residential care facilities. While 1 in 4 worked part time in 2012, most physical therapists worked full time. Some worked evenings and weekends while most therapists stuck to the normal business hours.
Finally, the career of a physical therapist is most challenging and interesting. The future holds great opportunities for a professional physical therapist who takes his/her career seriously.