Physical Therapist - How to Become a Physical Therapist

Physical Therapist

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Physical Therapist Job Description

 

Physical therapists (PTs) work closely with clients, patients and their families to promote, restore and maintain overall wellness and fitness, the goal being a more active, more satisfying lifestyle. Physical therapists provide specialized services that help improve mobility, help improve or restore function, relieve pain and discomfort, and reverse or marginalize physical disabilities that result from disease or injuries. Patients that physical therapists work with may include the following:

  • Victims of accidents

  • Individuals with disabling diseases

  • Patients with acute or chronic low back pain

  • Victims of fractures

  • Patients with head injuries

  • Arthritis sufferers

  • Patients with heart disease

  • Children and adults with cerebral palsy

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Responsibilities

 

The PT will use the finding from this thorough examination and his or her evaluative judgment to determine a patient’s diagnosis and accompanying prognosis, and develop a plan of care that describes evidence-based strategies for treatment. The PT will also describe the functional outcomes expected from the treatment. The PT will include in the plan of care a determination of the patient’s projected ability to function independently and potential for reintegration into the community and workplace after illness or injury.

Some of the common tasks a physical therapist may be expected to perform include:

  • Taking the patient’s or client’s history

  • Conduct a review of systems exam

  • Perform tests and measures on strength

  • Assess range of motion

  • Evaluate balance and coordination

  • Assess posture and overall muscle performance

  • Evaluate respiration

  • Perform tests to measure motor function

  • Identify potential and existing problems

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Skills

 

Physical Endurance

A PT must be able to be physical for many hours to help their patients as needed. They must be able to bend, twist, lift, crouch, kneel, push/pull, and the agility to move quickly and ensure patient safety.

Record-keeping

Must be able to collect and integrate patient histories to solve problems and develop treatments.

Emotional Stability

Must be able to handle the emotional stress of working with impaired patients in need of compassionate health care.

Multitasking

The ability to prioritize and manage multiple tasks simultaneously. 

Interpersonal

Must be able to interact with patients and their families regardless of background.

Reasoning

Must be able to apply facts and principles to issues to determine conclusions and solve problems. They must use knowledge and logic to find patters in injuries and determine causes and provide solutions.

Communication

Must be able to clearly convey thoughts and ideas to gauge patient's issues and convey to them the best path to treatment.

Empathy

Must be compassionate and able to empathize with a patient's pain and other difficulties. They are able to make people feel comfortable and meet them at their emotional level to humanize themselves and let people know they care.

Patience

They must understand it takes time to see results and be willing to put in that time. They also must help their clients have patience--especially if they are trying to overcome a difficult injury.

Problem-Solving

Must be able to use knowledge to gauge issues and determine the best route to recovery.

Dexterity

Must work well with your hands and be nimble. You will be put in situations where physical therapy is a must.

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Working Conditions

 

Physical therapists (PTs) may find opportunities for employment in any of the following settings:

  • Hospitals

  • Home health agencies

  • Public or private outpatient clinics

  • Private doctor’s office or physical therapy offices

  • Public or private schools, colleges and universities

  • Fitness and sports facilities

  • Skilled nursing facilities

  • Assisted living centers

Most full-time physical therapists work a standard 40-hour week. This may include some evening and weekend or holiday rotations.

A physical therapy position can be physically demanding, requiring the PT to frequently kneel, stoop, crouch, lift or stand for long periods of time. Physical therapists are also expected to move heavy equipment around and lift patients when needed. They also assist patients with turning, standing and walking.

 


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How to Become a Physical Therapist:

 

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

 

You first must earn your bachelor's degree so you can go on to complete a graduate program. There is no set major you should focus on while going for your undergrad, but you will need classes in Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, Chemistry, Physics and Psychology.

Also, you need to keep a GPA of a 3.0 and have a minimum of 21 hours in science courses to be considered for a graduate program. An undergrad course load might look like the following, if you take a pre-professional or pre-medical route:

 

Grade Level Example Courses

Freshman Year

 

  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • Biology & Lab
  • Calculus I
  • English 101
  • English 102
  • Humanities Requirement
  • Physics I & Lab
  • Physics II & Lab

Sophomore Year

  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab
  • Fundamentals of Microbiology & Lab
  • Genetics
  • Physiology 
  • Humanities Requirement
  • Electives

Junior Year

 

  • Cell Structure & Function
  • General Virology & Lab
  • Microbial Genetics & Lab
  • Biochemistry I
  • Biochemistry II
  • Physics
  • Electives

Senior Year

  • Upper Level Biology
  • Upper Level Chemistry
  • Upper Level Physics
  • Upper Level Psychology
  • Upper Level Kinesiology 
  • Electives

 

2. Earn a Master's or Doctoral Degree (2 - 6 Years)

 

Most physical therapy education programs have moved from the master's program to the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Degree Program. In order to practice as a physical therapist, you must receive a DPT Degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

These programs usually take three years to finish. During your time there you will receive supervised clinical practice and classroom and lab instruction in examining patients and evaluating their disabilities, instruction on prosthetics and orthotics, and medical screening and diagnostics. Potential applicants can investigate program admission requirements and make multiple applications to Physical Therapy Education Programs via the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) website.

 

3. Earn the Required License

 

A physical therapist must be licensed nationally and, in some cases, at a state level. They must pass the National Physical Therapy Exam that the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy gives. The test focuses on your competency in physical therapy theory, practice, and consultation. There are also individual state licensure requirements that they must meet before being allowed to practice in that state. Check with your local licensing authority to apply. 

 

4. Complete a Residency Program (Optional)

 

If you want to gain more practice and get a leg up on job applicants, you can complete a Residency Program. Programs typically include 1,500 hours of clinical practice and take up to 36 months to complete. While there you are allowed to examine and diagnose patients under the supervision of other licensed PTs. You can also decide to work towards specializing in a certain area.

A residency program would be a good option if you want to go on to complete a specialist certification. You need to find a residency program that's accredited by the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE).

 

5. Earn a Specialist Certification (Optional)

 

If you wanted to keep furthering your education, and really beat out the competition, you can choose to get certified in a specialty through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS), which offers eight different specialty areas: Cardiovascular and Pulmonary, Clinical Electrophysiology, Geriatrics, Neurology, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Sports, and Women's Health.

To qualify, you must be licensed and have at least 2,000 hours of practice in your chosen specialty (where that residency could help).  Then you need to pass the 200-question specialist certification exam, to see if you have the knowledge and skills you need in relation to your specialty.  

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Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
12.05.2016
Bachelor of Science General Summary: The Physical Therapist performs physical therapy evaluations, treatments, and documentation requirements in accordance with professional standard. The Physical Therapist also participates in other...
12.05.2016
Physical Therapist - Pelvic Pain This Physical Therapist position will provide treatment at our Stoneham Out-Patient Campus, 41 Montvale Avenue in Stoneham, MA. HALLMARK HEALTH is currently seeking a qualified Physical Therapist to provide...
12.09.2016
DescriptionUnder general direction, design and administer to patients a therapeutic program designed to facilitate maximal mobility/recovery.Qualifications Registered Physical Therapist by the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Examiners with...
12.09.2016
DescriptionUnder general direction, design and administer to patients a therapeutic program designed to facilitate maximal mobility/recovery.QualificationsRegistered Physical Therapist by the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Examiners with current...
12.09.2016
DescriptionUnder general direction, design and administer to patients a therapeutic program designed to facilitate maximal mobility/recovery.QualificationsRegistered Physical Therapist by the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Examiners. Acute care...
12.05.2016
The Physical Therapist provides a wide range of medically prescribed physical therapy treatments and support services to both in and outpatients, in order to restore function and prevent disability following injury, disease or loss of body parts....
12.05.2016
Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Stafford Therapy Center located in Stafford, Virginia, is looking for a PRN (works on an as needed basis) Physical Therapist. The Physical Therapist is primarily responsible for the delivery of physical...
06.07.2016
Exciting opportunity for full time physical therapist at growing rehab practice. Variety of clients within outpatient, inpatient, and home health sectors of care. Opportunity for specialization. Beautiful therapy gym, private treatment rooms,...
12.05.2016
Under the direct supervision of the Team Leader of Physical Medicine, the Physical Therapist evaluates and treats all patients referred for physical therapy; prepares reports and communicates patient progress to appropriate individuals;...
12.05.2016
The team member's number one job responsibility is to deliver the most remarkable patient experience, in every dimension, every time, and understand how he or she contributes to the health systems vision of achieving that commitment to patients...
12.05.2016
The Physical Therapist organizes and conducts physical therapy to restore function and prevent disability following disease, injury, or loss of limb(s) Minimum Qualifications: Master's degree in Physical Therapy, current North Carolina Physical...
12.09.2016
DescriptionUnder general direction, design and administer to patients a therapeutic program designed to facilitate maximal mobility/recovery. The position requirements are Registered Physical Therapist by the Oklahoma State Board of Medical...
12.05.2016
- Licensed (or eligible) as Physical Therapist in the State of - Computer skills are required - Customer service skills are required - Excellent communication skills are required - Experience is preferred VCU Health System's Acute...
12.05.2016
- Masters degree is preferred - Licensed (or eligible) as Physical Therapist in the State of - Computer skills are required - Customer service skills are required - Excellent communication skills are required - Experience is...
12.05.2016
- Licensed (or eligible) as Physical Therapist in the State of - Computer skills are required - Customer service skills are required - Excellent communication skills are required - Experience is preferred VCU Health System's Acute...
  1. PHYSICAL THERAPIST Tifton, GA Tift Regional Medical Center
    Bachelor of Science General Summary: The Physical Therapist performs physical therapy evaluations, treatments, and documentation requirements in accordance with professional standard. The Physical Therapist also participates in other...
  2. Physical Therapist Melrose, MA Hallmark Health System
    Physical Therapist - Pelvic Pain This Physical Therapist position will provide treatment at our Stoneham Out-Patient Campus, 41 Montvale Avenue in Stoneham, MA. HALLMARK HEALTH is currently seeking a qualified Physical Therapist to provide...
  3. Physical Therapist Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionUnder general direction, design and administer to patients a therapeutic program designed to facilitate maximal mobility/recovery.Qualifications Registered Physical Therapist by the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Examiners with...
  4. Physical Therapist Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionUnder general direction, design and administer to patients a therapeutic program designed to facilitate maximal mobility/recovery.QualificationsRegistered Physical Therapist by the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Examiners with current...
  5. Physical Therapist Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionUnder general direction, design and administer to patients a therapeutic program designed to facilitate maximal mobility/recovery.QualificationsRegistered Physical Therapist by the Oklahoma State Board of Medical Examiners. Acute care...
  6. Physical Therapist Indianapolis, IN Eskenazi Health
    The Physical Therapist provides a wide range of medically prescribed physical therapy treatments and support services to both in and outpatients, in order to restore function and prevent disability following injury, disease or loss of body parts....
  7. Physical Therapist Richmond, VA VCU Health System
    Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Stafford Therapy Center located in Stafford, Virginia, is looking for a PRN (works on an as needed basis) Physical Therapist. The Physical Therapist is primarily responsible for the delivery of physical...
  8. Physical Therapist Cherokee, AL Cherokee Regional Medical Center
    Exciting opportunity for full time physical therapist at growing rehab practice. Variety of clients within outpatient, inpatient, and home health sectors of care. Opportunity for specialization. Beautiful therapy gym, private treatment rooms,...
  9. Physical Therapist Lake Charles, LA Lake Charles Memorial Hospital
    Under the direct supervision of the Team Leader of Physical Medicine, the Physical Therapist evaluates and treats all patients referred for physical therapy; prepares reports and communicates patient progress to appropriate individuals;...
  10. Physical Therapist Winston-Salem, NC Novant Health
    The team member's number one job responsibility is to deliver the most remarkable patient experience, in every dimension, every time, and understand how he or she contributes to the health systems vision of achieving that commitment to patients...
  11. Physical Therapist Hendersonville, NC Pardee Hospital
    The Physical Therapist organizes and conducts physical therapy to restore function and prevent disability following disease, injury, or loss of limb(s) Minimum Qualifications: Master's degree in Physical Therapy, current North Carolina Physical...
  12. Physical Therapist Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionUnder general direction, design and administer to patients a therapeutic program designed to facilitate maximal mobility/recovery. The position requirements are Registered Physical Therapist by the Oklahoma State Board of Medical...
  13. Physical Therapist Richmond, VA VCU Health System
    - Licensed (or eligible) as Physical Therapist in the State of - Computer skills are required - Customer service skills are required - Excellent communication skills are required - Experience is preferred VCU Health System's Acute...
  14. Physical Therapist Richmond, VA VCU Health System
    - Masters degree is preferred - Licensed (or eligible) as Physical Therapist in the State of - Computer skills are required - Customer service skills are required - Excellent communication skills are required - Experience is...
  15. Physical Therapist Richmond, VA VCU Health System
    - Licensed (or eligible) as Physical Therapist in the State of - Computer skills are required - Customer service skills are required - Excellent communication skills are required - Experience is preferred VCU Health System's Acute...