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Career Story: Pediatric Physical Therapist

Pediatric Physical Therapist

Job Title: Pediatric Physical Therapist

Education: BS in Rehabilitative Sciences, Northeastern University •• MS in Physical Therapy, Northeastern University

Previous Experience: I worked as a pediatric physical therapy for an early intervention company (prior to starting my current job) that services children from birth to age three in their homes with a variety of birth defects, genetic disorders, or simple delays in development.

Job Tasks: The company I work for provides physical therapy services for children, teenagers, and adults with orthopedic, neurological and sports injuries. We focus on pediatrics from children with gross motor delays to children with Down's Syndrome and cerebral palsy. We also specialize in sports injuries such as ACL tears, ankle sprains, broken bones, or pain anywhere in their body.

As a physical therapist, it is my job to evaluate a patient's injury to decide if it is appropriate for me to treat them or if the patient needs to see a doctor first (to make sure that they do not have a fracture or need surgery). If the patient is appropriate for physical therapy, I design a plan to help their injury heal or progress gross motor skills (like running, jumping, walking, throwing) while they attend physical therapy. I give patient's exercises to perform at home, and design a plan to use in the clinic. I do things like massage, stretching, strengthening, joint mobilizations (moving a joint back into place), using ice or heat, electrical stimulation or any number of tricks in my bag to help people get better, so they can return to their lives before their injury. I also help to teach people proper techniques for their sport (for example throwing/pitching, running technique), in order to help people return to their sport better then when they left with an injury and to help prevent any further injuries.

I also need to write down everything that I do with patients, call insurance companies, talk and coordinate care with doctors, and typical office work (for example answer the phone or file). I work four, ten hour days and I typically see 12-16 patients in a day. A patient is typically with me for 45 minutes to an hour. During that day I have one hour for lunch and one hour for administrative work (writing notes, billing, e-mails, and talking to doctors) and the rest of my day is spent treating patients.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is helping people. I love to see people get better and know that I had something to do with it. I also love to watch children who have never taken a step before, and because of my help they learn to walk without any help. I also enjoy working with athletes, since I was one in high school and college. It is fun to see an athlete go from surgery to playing on the field. I often will go to a patient's game just to cheer them on after they are done with physical therapy. The worst part of my job is dealing with insurance companies and paper work.

Job Tips: Tip one: If it is available, take both physics and anatomy in high school. Both courses are very important and will help you during your first year in college.

Tip Two: Work hard in school. Most colleges will only accept the students who are in the top of their class into a physical therapy program.

Tip Three: Be prepared for five to six years of college. Most Physical Therapy programs are either master's programs or doctors of physical therapy and require at least one if not two years of post graduate work in order to recieve your degree.

Additional Thoughts: If you love medicine and helping people, but you don't like needles or blood, physical therapy is a great choice. You can work in a variety of settings from a hospital to a nursing home, to people's house, or outpatient clinics. You can work with young children and babies (like I do) or elderly patients, people with heart problems or who had a stroke, to people who break a bone or have tendonitis. It is a very rewarding career, but know that the pay is not as high as someone in the business world.

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