Job Title: Physical Therapist
Type of Company: I work in a hospital in the out-patient rehabilitation unit.
Education: BS, Physical Therapy
Previous Experience: My first job out of college was in a rehabilitation hospital, where I bounced around treating all types of patients. Since then I've primarily worked in out-patient physical therapy departments in private practices and in hospitals.
Job Tasks: As an out-patient physical therapist, I evaluate and treat patients with a variety of medical, neurological, cardiopulmonary and orthopedic problems. I treat pre-operative and post-operative patients as well as acute and long-standing injuries. I treat each patient using an individualized prescription supplied by a doctor and incorporating patient education, massage, stretching, joint manipulation and exercises.
Patient education covers any and all of the following: postural awareness, body mechanics awareness, information on the injury and t reasons for physical therapy. The therapy itself can include soft tissue massage, deep friction massage, retrograde massage myofascial release, joint mobilizations and scar mobilizations, along with iontophoresis, ultrasound and electrical stimulation and a combination of the two. These are typically used to manage pain, muscle spasms and inflammation.
Each exercise prescription includes exercises the patient can perform at home to strengthen musculature and work on flexibility in the targeted area(s).
Typically a patient comes in for a thorough evaluation of his injury. During that initial meeting the physical therapist has to identify areas of weakness, loss of mobility and flexibility, pain etc. After establishing a plan of care for the patient, the therapist sees him 1-3 times a week and re-evaluates his progress every 30 days (as demanded by healthcare insurance). If the therapist thinks he needs further work, he sends a note to the doctor who referred the patient and a concomitant request is made to the insurance company to cover the cost of additional visits.
Ideally, it is beneficial to follow the same patient for continuity. This way both the patient and the therapist feel comfortable with each other. Goals are established which the patient agrees to. Functional goals are the ultimate outcome as well as returning the patient to prior level of function/and or sport if that is a realistic goal.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of this job is meeting new people and establishing relationships with patients. Earning patients' trust and seeing them improve are very gratifying.
A down side of being a physical therapist is encountering a patient who's uncooperative: someone who does not attend regular appointments and who does not follow through with his exercise program. A large proportion of my current clientele isn't fluent in English and this is hard too.
1. The physical therapy program is very structured and without many electives. I would highly recommend reviewing in-depth an anatomy book before you embark on a therapy program. Learning origins and insertions of muscles and tendons etc. as well as muscle function would be greatly beneficial.
2. Working in a rehabilitation hospital right out of college will help you learn disease states, and from there you can find a niche.
3. Speaking another language would be very helpful. As I mentioned above, a large percentage of my patient population doesn't speak English.
Additional Thoughts: Physical therapy school is long and arduous. I would recommend volunteering in a physical therapy department prior to applying to one to make sure that this is really what you want to pursue.
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