What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Before you embark on a career in physical therapy, it’s important to get a closer look at what the profession is all about. Most people have a fairly solid understanding of physical therapy, but this general opinion or overview doesn’t provide a true glimpse into the life and responsibilities of a physical therapist throughout his or her career. Spend a few minutes to see what exactly a physical therapist does, and what kinds of responsibilities and roles they take on.

The basis of a career in physical therapy is working with patients on their physical impairments, conditions, pain or other problems. You can be in the role of prevention, maintenance, acute or long-term treatment, and more. Before treatment though, testing, examining and diagnosing are all of the essence to ensure you take the right action. Re-examining, developing long-term plans with goals and outcomes, and more, are all crucial components to physical therapy.

Given this, there are many individual and specific skills that physical therapists need to have. A strong interpersonal skill set is important, whether it’s to inform patients about a condition, explain to them what they need to do, keep their spirits high, or motivate them to succeed. Clinical and administrative skills are also of the essence, in terms of reading and creating patient histories, developing treatment plans, running the backend of a hospital or office, and more.

Of course, what you end up doing as a physical therapist will in large part be determined by where you’re working, and in what kind of setting. Physical therapists can find themselves in hospitals, private practices, physician’s offices, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, schools, community or government institutions, and on down the line.

The type of work you’ll be doing on a day-to-day level will be greatly varied depending on where you end up. The constant is working with patients and medical problems or conditions they have which affect their physical movement, functionality and capabilities.

But from there, you could be working in acute care in a hospital, improving patients’ conditions until they can be discharged, or in a wellness setting, where education, prevention and awareness are stressed. You can bring in all sorts of patients in your own practice or outpatient clinic, or you could work in an extended care facility where you’re treating the same patients on a long-term basis to improve and maintain their quality of life. This is just a few examples of the range of specific roles that physical therapists take on.

The bottom line is this, physical therapists are responsible for diagnosing, treating and managing physical and medical conditions which impair physical movement and functionality. But from there, the sky is the limit in terms of what you may specifically be doing in your career. There are clinical and administrative facets to the job, as well as a need for interpersonal communication, as well as the core basis of treatment itself. It’s an exciting career which offers many opportunities, and if this has sounded good to you, then you should consider a life as a physical therapist as well.

Next: What Conditions Do Physical Therapists Treat?


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