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Do you find the hands-on care of a physical therapist or the executive responsibility of a physician to be more rewarding?

I'm interested in becoming a physical therapist or a physician, specifically a PM&R (Physical Medicine and Rehab doctor). I've heard that physical therapy is one of the most rewarding occupations, but some say it can become monotonous. I've heard that being a doctor also rewarding, but a common criticism is that physicians do not have the opportunity to connect with patients on as personal of a level as physical therapists have. Between the two, which is the more rewarding and exciting? #doctor #medicine #physician #physical-therapist #physical-therapy #pmnr

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Deborah R.’s Answer

I have only been a physical therapist. Of the two, in general, I would say that physical therapists get to spend more time each visit with their patients and work with them over time to build functional abilities. Boredom is in the eyes of those who are bored and PT is monotonous only if the practitioner lets it be so. In PT the opportunities for practice are endless and it is possible to switch between specialties. I found PT to be extremely rewarding and exciting and I know my internist finds medicine to be extremely rewarding and exciting.
Social, cultural and financial - third party reimbursement and personal - changes constantly affect the incomes and sometimes the practices of everyone who works in medicine. Each of us is responsible for keeping ourselves involved and interested and up-to-date on whatever we do. There are other ways to make the decision between becoming a PT or an MD, length of schooling, finances, curiosity about organ systems, surgery, specialties, independent practice or group practice, hospital affiliations, power to influence medical decisions, etc.
It sounds like you are thinking of becoming a physiatrist - doctor of rehabilitation medicine. Personally, I would rather be a PT. Physiatrists usually direct rehab but they don't usually do the one-to-one nitty gritty building skills from the bottom up that PTs get to do, which I love doing. You could look into becoming an osteopath as another option.

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Willy’s Answer

Hi Allison!


I am also a physical therapist and I can tell you that it is an exciting career especially on the care that physical therapists provide by working on their functional abilities and improving their quality of life. In physical therapy, there is no such thing as boredom as you will encounter different people with different disabilities with varying impairments and limitations. AS a PT, you have to address those impairments and limitations so that people under your care will get better. So, you have to think/plan on different treatment techniques that you think will result in the best outcome for the people you provide care. Thus, we need to continually learn through continuing education program or get specialty certification to become current in PT practice. PT has a wide range of areas that you can practice on depending on your interest or preference. You can also practice in different settings that you would like such as pediatrics,orthopedics,sports medicine etc. You can also practice within the hospitals as inpatient or outpatient. You can also do PT in private practice, home health, SNF or assisted living facilities. That is why you will not get bored unless you let yourself be bored on it. I, myself practice in different settings. I work full time in the hospital, sometimes in inpatient or outpatient when needs arise. I also work part-time in skilled nursing facility and assisted living facility. So, there are many areas that you can practice as a PT.
If you wanted to become a rehab doctor, that would be different from a physical therapist as a rehab doctor requires a degree in medicine and you will need to speciaize in physical medicine after completing your medical degree . It could be rewarding career wise and financially but you would not have the hands on care that PT provides.

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