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A Day in the Life of a Physical Therapist

October 4, 2018
Published in: Therapy

Therapist checking how far a patient can move his knee

Took a hard hit on the football field? Not feeling well after a car accident? Experienced a fall, pulled a muscle, or have chronic knee pain? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might find yourself being treated by a physical therapist. These dynamic, highly trained, and licensed healthcare professionals help patients with pain relief, management of chronic conditions, increased mobility, improved function, and much more. Being treated by a physical therapist may even eliminate the need for surgery or long-term prescription medications. To understand physical therapists more clearly, let's take a look at a day in the life of these important healthcare professionals.

Physical Therapy Foundations

To earn the privilege of treating patients, a physical therapist completes rigorous education, training, and licensure. This includes:

  • Completing a bachelor's degree or pre-professional physical therapy degree
  • Completing a master's or doctorate degree from an accredited physical therapy program
  • Passing state licensure exams
  • Pursuing a clinical residency or clinical fellowship for advanced training if desired
  • Earning specialty certifications if desired. Specialties include cardiovascular and pulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, geriatrics, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, sports physical therapy, and women's health.

After completing their education, a physical therapist can work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, private practice, schools, home health agencies, nursing homes, or sports and fitness facilities. Physical therapists usually work during normal business hours. They often supervise physical therapy assistants that work with patients, track information through reports and progress notes, and other tasks as directed by the physical therapist. A physical therapist is part of a patients network of healthcare providers that may include primary care doctors and specialists.

First Things First

A day in a physical therapy practice usually begins by reviewing the list of patient appointments. The physical therapist and physical therapy assistants work together closely to evaluate and treat a variety of patients for a range of issues. A patient list for the day could include a young football player with a sports injury, an elderly person with a broken hip, a middle-aged person that has whiplash from a car accident, and a person with a chronic pain condition. Physical therapists treat all ages and conditions that impede mobility, function, and daily life. It's easy to see why they are dynamic healthcare professionals!

Welcoming New Patients

When a new patient arrives for physical therapy, the physical therapist completes a thorough evaluation. A detailed plan of care is then completed for the patient. The plan of care includes:

  • Identifying needs
  • Identifying the specific treatments that will be used
  • Setting goals
  • A timeframe and frequency of treatment

Treatments may include therapeutic exercise, mobility training, pain relief, massage, and wound care. All of these treatments involve an aspect of patient education as well. This list of treatment options can vary depending on the specialty training of the physical therapy staff. For instance, the Augusta Health Outpatient Physical Therapy Team services also include:

  • Orthopedic Rehabilitation (General and Sports-specific)
  • Aquatic Therapy
  • Adult Neurological Rehabilitation
  • Vestibular Rehabilitation including Balance Training, Fall Prevention, and Vertigo treatment
  • Industrial Therapy including Ergonomic Assessments and Functional Capacity Evaluations
  • Wheelchair evaluations
  • Oncology Rehabilitation including the Strength After Breast Cancer Program®
  • Orthotic fabrication and fitting/The Runner's Clinic
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction
  • TMJ Therapy

More Than Just a Job

Reports by U.S. News and World Report rank physical therapy as one of the top 12 jobs in healthcare. Unlike some other healthcare fields, physical therapists report positive patient impact, work-life balance, and salary as top reasons they enjoy their jobs. The job market for physical therapists remains strong, and the projections for the continued need for new physical therapists entering the field is high through the year 2020.

A day in the life of a physical therapist is as varied and dynamic as they are. These important healthcare professionals work with patients of all ages, backgrounds, and needs. If you have questions about physical therapy, the team at Augusta Health Outpatient Physical Therapy is here to help.