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Career Story: Home Care Physical Therapist

Home Care Physical Therapist

Job Title: Home Care Physical Therapist

Type of Company: My company is a visiting nurse association in western Massachusetts.

Education: BS, certificate, Physical Therapy, Boston University

Previous Experience: I've worked in many different clinical settings--acute hospital, acute rehabilitation, long term care-- but I've found working with patients in their homes to be the most flexible and functional.

Job Tasks: My agency receives physician referrals for physical therapy from hospitals, surgeons, and private practice physicians. Examples of patient diagnoses include total joint replacements, orthopedic injuries (fractures or sprains), progressive neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis, other neurological problems such as stroke and traumatic brain injury.

Once I receive a referral, I make an initial visit to the patient in their home to do an assessment. I evaluate such things as range of motion, muscle strength, balance, gait, ability to transfer from chair to chair, bed mobility, sensation, and motor control. From the results of my evaluation I develop a physical therapy program of exercise and mobility training aimed at correcting or minimizing the patient's problems and improving their independence, function, and safety at home. It is also important to involve the family in the rehabilitation process as they may be the patient's caregiver or assistant. We also keep in close touch with other clinical team members such as nurses, physicians, occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers, and home health aides in order to provide a cohesive, complete program for the patient's benefit.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is working with patients. I have been able to meet and help people in all walks of life. It is very rewarding to know that your services and assistance have made a positive change in someone's life at a time of stress or illness.

Worst part: our current health care system can be difficult to work in. Federal and state mandates and insurance limitations can be frustrating. I have found after thirty years in the field of physical therapy that home care is the setting that provides me the most freedom to treat the whole patient and make a significant difference in their lives.

Job Tips:
1. A strong science background is helpful in P.T. school. Take life sciences as early as you can in your school career.

2. Become familiar with health care settings early on. Volunteer at your local hospital, VNA, or skilled nursing center.

3. Before you work in a home care setting, it is helpful to first get some experience in clinical settings such as out-patient departments, rehab centers, long-term care facilities. When you work in home health you are very much "on your own" and it is good to work more closely with peers and mentors before venturing into a setting where you are more autonomous.

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