Career Story: Physical Therapist At A Nursing Home

Physical Therapist At A Nursing Home

Job Title: Physical Therapist

Type of Company: A therapy provider to nursing homes throughout the country.

Education: AS, Allied Health

Previous Experience: I began work at a state hospital and later moved to a nursing home.

Job Tasks: I have worked in nursing homes for 12 years as a physical therapist. Frequently, the residents of the nursing home will get sick or fall and get hurt and then will need some help to get better. Anyone who's hospitalized and has to stay in bed for a week can lose most of the strength he had when ambulatory.

Eve, for example, is a lovely 82-year-old lady who came to the nursing home after her brother passed away. She had lived with him her whole life and became very depressed when he was gone. She stopped eating and caring for herself. When Eve started physical therapy, she was very weak and could walk very little. Now it is 4 weeks later and she gets around by herself and has made a few friends here. Her legs are strong because she does exercises with weights on her legs and her balance is much improved. She is happy with us, but she will soon have to decide whether she will stay and live here or return home. She is typical of the patients I treat.

Frequently we get patients who just had knee or hip replacement surgery. These patients can be in a lot of pain and wary of moving their legs. They need someone to help get the new joint working well. I probably have rehabilitated over one hundred of them. This work is not for everyone. Sometimes the patient might not even care if he gets better and in that situation it takes a lot more encouragement to get the patient going.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is seeing patients get better. Sometimes the patient has lots of pain in his body and this can make him not want to move around at all. It is very rewarding to reach through someone's pain and get him to a place where he is more comfortable.

The worst part of my job is that sometimes my patient does not get better. If they have a life-threatening condition such as cancer, they can get weaker and pass away. This is the risk of working with the frail elderly population.

Job Tips: If you think you might be interested in a career like this, you can get your associate's degree in as little as 2 years. I would recommend that you volunteer for a while at a nursing home. You could do room visits, to people who prefer not to leave their room much. You will need many science and health courses before you start a PT program. I am a PTA, which is a PT Assistant. An actual PT requires 6 years of college. The Assistant needs only 2 years.

Additional Thoughts: I wish I knew before I started this career that plan "A" does not always work and you must always have a back-up plan. You would be a little surprised if you went to bring your patient to the PT gym and he refused to go. He might tell you that he has a stomach ache and just wants to stay in bed, and this may or may not be true. You may come to find that some people don't care or don't want to get better, and this is very hard for a Rehab person to deal with. Good luck and keep trying.

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