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What is the hardest part about being a physical therapist?

I am looking into studying physical therapy and I want to know more about it.

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Sheri’s Answer

The most challenging part of being a therapist is treating the whole individual and each individual is different. Many people have other health conditions, physical limitations or cognitive challenges that can affect the way their case is managed. In other words, you don’t just treat a specific body part or diagnosis. You might get a referral to treat a patient for knee pain, but the patient may have a history of having a stroke with high blood pressure in which case vitals should be monitored and the patient may walk abnormally from the stroke. The more complex the medical history, the more the therapist has to consider to create an appropriate and safe treatment plan.
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Beth’s Answer

Being a physical therapist is challenging and rewarding all at once. A person comes to you with a problem and wants you to “fix” them now.
Physical therapy is different from drugs given by the doctor or a quick crack by the chiropractor. We work to educate the person about how the problem happened and what to do to heal it, and to prevent it in the future or manage it for chronic problems. All this takes effort on the patient’s part. But, is very effective at stopping the problem.
I get most frustrated with patients who just want a quick fix but then return to the same self destructive behavior- sitting at a poor desk for hours, clenching their teeth, wearing bad shoes, Overworking their chest muscles and ignoring their back, etc.
The challenge is to convince your patients to change old habits to improve their health.

Beth recommends the following next steps:

Go to APTA.org for more info on the career and schools
Shadow or volunteer at a PT clinic, nursing home, rehab center to see different types of PT.
Maintain excellent grades and community activities- getting into PT programs is hard
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Lauren’s Answer

I am not a physical therapist however, I am a physical therapist assistant (PT is a doctorate, PTA is Associates/bachelor's). In the field the hardest thing is documentation and finding the time to do this properly. You will be assessing patients on their eval (PT) and this requires you to document findings and the plan of care. After that, a daily note is required for each visit, this is much easier and faster. I know many of PT's who fall behind on notes and are left with many to complete by the end of the week. Depending on facility, you may not get time to document outside of when you are with the patient (point of service). It gets hard to write notes about someone you saw 3 days ago.
Being a therapist challenges you daily in the best ways as well. To understand how to treat a patient, what may need to be adjusted or changed throughout their stay, assessing changes to their condition and knowing when you can't fix them. You are always thinking about the next step with your patient. Analyzing constantly, there is a reason continuing education is such a big part of the career, you will never stop learning.
Thank you comment icon Thank you! I appreciate your response; it was very helpful. Sandra A.
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Laura’s Answer

The hardest and greatest part of being a physical therapist is that you may not have all the answers and figure out what’s going on with the patient immediately. Many patients want a quick fix so it’s hard to get them to understand all the education you are giving them as to why some conditions don’t get 100% right away. Patients sometimes don’t want to be in control of their conditions but getting them to understand and self manage is a great challenge and rewarding.
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