Career Story: Physical Therapist At A Prison

Physical Therapist At A Prison

Job Title: Physical Therapist

Type of Company: I work for the North Carolina Department of Corrections.

Education: BS, Kinesiology, UCLA •• Certificate in Physical Therapy, Children's Hospital of Los Angeles

Previous Experience: I have worked as a physical therapist at adult day care centers, assisted living facilities and on home health care teams.

Job Tasks: I provide physical therapy to inmates of a prison. Staff physicians request PT evaluation and treatment for many different types of injuries in this setting. Many are orthopedic in nature, such as fractures sustained in motor vehicle accidents which led to incarceration, injuries sustained while in the prison setting, joint replacements, as well as back and neck problems.

A few examples of neurologic disorders that require physical therapy and aren't uncommon in prisons are strokes, multiple sclerosis, nerve injuries and paralysis from accidents or gun shot wounds. Other medical conditions which may require PT include diabetes and cardiac problems. For the most part these are the same kinds of problems which a physical therapist would be called on to treat in a hospital or outpatient setting. I am responsible for scheduling the appointments, keeping monthly logs summarizing patient visits, attending monthly department head meetings, charting patient visits and progress, and daily communication with the medical staff.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is seeing improvement, providing encouragement and making a difference in the well-being of many patients.

The worst is not seeing everyone on the schedule due to time constraints or difficulties due to operational workings of a prison.

Job Tips:
1.) Get plenty of experience, volunteering or otherwise before applying for physical therapy school. It is a requirement, but also not everyone is comfortable working with patients.

2.) Take advantage of seminars available in nearly every major city.

3.) For you first position as a physical therapist, choose a setting with a large therapy staff and broad-based patient load, such as a hospital or out-patient clinic. This way you are still learning from others with experience and building your experience to be able to work with almost any type of patient.

Additional Thoughts: What surprises me most is that after thirty years, I still love what I do. I like being creative...what work with one patient may not work with another.

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