Strokes, sprained ankles, broken bones, and amputations, the list goes on and on. There are hundreds of injuries, like the few listed, that physical therapists are able to help patients recover from (Sears). Practically everyone has been directly impacted by the work of a physical therapists at one point in their life, whether it be recovering from an injury in sports or a cancer removing surgery therapists work to get their patients back to a healthier state. Because of the distinctiveness of their job physical therapists play a crucial role in a patient’s life that doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals are unable to. Physical therapy is an incredible field, it’s uniqueness and many branches allow it to be versatile and cover many bases of need, it requires years of schooling and training, because of these things therapists are able to make a significant impact on their patients lives both physically and emotionally and develop strong and lasting relationships with them.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, physical therapists, commonly referred to as PT’s are “highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility – in many cases without expensive surgery and often reducing the need for long-term use of prescription medications and their side effects” (Sears). Therapists work with people who have been injured in car accidents, sports, surgeries and more, they work to improve their state of life and restore a patient’s abilities to do perform both day to day tasks as well as special things like kick a soccer ball or run a marathon. Therapists are currently in very high demand and the number of therapists needed is expected to rise for several more years. (“Physical Therapy”)) Unlike most medical professionals PT’s are able to work with a patient one on one for an extended period of time, insuring that they are giving the best care possible and working on each and every patients specific needs (Schwagerl).
There are several different aspects of physical therapy and each one serves its own unique role and has its own function. When completing their education physical therapists decide what they want to specialize in and begin to take specific classes and do internships that give them the knowledge needed to become an expert in their type of therapy. Some types of therapies that one can choose are orthopedic, geriatric, neurological, cardiovascular and many more. Therapists are found in a variety of places. They are able to work in outpatient offices, private practices, hospitals, rehab centers, nursing homes, and more. (Sears). Because of these many different options physical therapists are able to work and connect with people from most any background and situation. Therapists pick their specialty based on what they feel they are best at and based on where they feel they can make the most significant impact on others. Some specialties can be very broad and others very specific and it is up to the individual to find where they best fit. (“Today’s Physical”)
Although working directly with patients is the largest aspect of a therapist’s job there are several things that they must do behind the scenes. Within a day a therapist may see only about 6-10 patients for about 45 minutes each. For each patient a therapist evaluates the patient, works with that patient one on one, files a report on the session and plans for the patients next session. Lots of paperwork and planning is required for therapist to really do their job well and get the most out of each one on one session (Schwagerl). No physical therapy treatment is the same for any two patients, a therapist builds each session based on their patients needs and abilities and works to get the patient in a better place (Sears).
In order to become a therapist there are several steps that one must take. Physical therapists have to attend school for around six or seven years before being able to actively practice. This is fairly different from how it was years ago. In the 1980’s and early 90’s you could obtain a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy in just four years and be able to practice shortly after, but in the mid to late 90’s it became a requirement for a physical therapist to receive their Doctorate (Schwagerl). Now a days, before obtaining a specific physical therapy degree one must have a bachelor’s degree from a college of university. The degrees chosen are usually health science related such as; biology, anatomy, physiology, or chemistry. The University of Southern California, Boston University, and University of Florida are some of the top schools for pre-physical therapy programs (“Accredited PT”).
After four years of schooling and obtaining such a degree hopeful PT’s then apply to and attend graduate school for another two to three years to get their doctorate. They “must complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program. As of 2014, there were 228 physical therapy programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)”(“Physical Therapy”). Many of these programs have been growing more and more in the past couple of years. These programs are very competitive and require a lot from their applicants. Applicants must have observed and shadowed a licensed therapist and “must demonstrate success in academic, clinical and professional aspects”(“DPT Admissions”). Having a degree from one of the accredited universities builds a PT’s resume and puts them in better standing to get a job.
In order to get a job a PT must meet all of their particular states requirements for licensing. Many states have similar requirements such as passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), background checks, law examinations, and continued education (“Physical Therapy”). These requirements ensure that a physical therapist is fully prepares to do their job and will be practicing safely and correctly on any patient that they encounter. The largest part of licensing is passing the national exam. This exam encompasses physical therapy and all of its parts, it “covers the entire scope of practice, which for the physical therapist includes theory, examination and evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment intervention, prevention, and consultation”(Bellamy). After obtaining their license therapists are able to practice but must continue to renew their license every few years (Bellamy). Because of requirements like these patients can be sure that they are truly getting the best care possible and that they are being worked with by someone who really cares about their well being.
Therapists are able to make an incredible difference on a patient’s physical well being. The impacts they can make can be life changing. They can reduce or eliminate chronic pain, improve balance, manage diseases and age related issues, increase neurological function, and so much more(“10 Reasons”). Therapists work in three major areas these are improving flexibility, strength, and mobility. Overall therapists are able to improve the functions and abilities of one’s body. For many people these improvements can change their lives. Amputees can learn to walk again, brain cancer survivors can go outside again, athletes can play again (Schwagerl).
Although therapists are able to physical impact on their patients lives, a lot of the time the emotional changes they can make can be just as great. A lot of the time patients that therapists are seeing have experienced life changing events or procedures. Many have been told by doctors and others that they will not be able to get their life back to the way it was and that they would have to face that. Therapists do not see things this way. Each patient is seen as a problem that they are eager to solve (Schwagerl). Because of this mentality patients are able to make immense progress that might have seemed impossible. This puts patients in a much better emotional state and allows them to not feel the hopelessness and despair that they may have felt after their injury or procedure. Therapists often times encounter patients who are dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression that has come about because of their condition (Jevon). By actively working with and befriending these patients therapist not only help their patients physically but also emotionally.
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