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Physical Therapist?

What does a normal day on the job look like for a physical therapist?

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De’s Answer

A “normal” day is quite different from different settings. The most important question to answer when looking at locations is how many Physical Therapists are employed as to the number of Physical Therapy Assistants which a location has employed. If there are many PTA’s but few PT’s, just run from the place. The reason is a PT will be doing all the paperwork, with lots of unpaid overtime, but doing little treatment. If each PT has a PTA working with them or on their team, that is the ideal situation, much like Physicians and Physicians Assistants. The large organizations may hire 3- 4 or more PTA’s for each PT. The PT’s quality of like and work overload will be tremendous. Don’t take a job with those organizations. The employers will also lie and say they have 23 therapists. PTA’s are not therapists. It is against the law to say a PTA is a therapist. Also speak to the PTA’s, if they make statements they can do anything a therapist can do and are just as good, run from this place. A good place to look for employment is a private practice with mostly PT’s, inpatient hospital, or rehab setting. Nursing homes are some of the worst abusers of overworking PT’s. This is a look inside the profession which most people don’t want to say but is a very real present situation in the industry. Also, ask how many patients you are expected to see a day, and how much time is given for evaluations. So a normal day for a reputable organization is 10-12 patients a day, with a minimum of 45 minutes for an evaluation. An hour used to be the standard but has changed due to organizations attempting to increase profits.
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Beth’s Answer

As De said, your day looks different depending on your setting, and staffing at each facility. I work in a hospital, and an outpatient clinic and recently did home health.
At the hospital - we all generally arrive at 8 and work until 4:30 with a 30 min lunch. We spend about an hour reviewing the new cases we are assigned for the day, and seeing what has happened to our other patients overnight. We usually see patients from 9-12, document treatments 1-2, see another couple patients in afternoon, document and go home. We usually see 8-10 people per day. In the hospital you see new strokes, heart problems, get people up after surgery, teach fractures how to move again, or even work in NICU with babies.
In outpatient we also start at 8 - 4:30 but many clinics are open 7-7 for before and after work. You could work 7-3 or 11-7, or 3, 12 hour days. There can be a lot of flexibility. In outpatient, you usually see 2 patients per hour and document if someone cancels or while your person works, you will have a lunch break. Some clinics specialize in back injuries or sports injuries or strokes, or you might have a little of everything.
Home health can be very flexible - you plan your schedule when your patient and their family is available. Usually you have to do at least 20 visits per week for full time. Sometimes you have to drive an hour in traffic to see someone, maybe they are a child who doesn’t get off the bus until 4:30, and home health has a lot of documentation ( you are also responsible for reporting on their living conditions, monitoring general health, and you might be the only person your patient sees all day) but you can go anytime ( weekends, evenings, mornings). Usually you will see kids, or adult who cannot get out of the house. New surgery recovery, heart and lung patients.
Where you work and the type of patients you see is up to you. When you are choosing a job, those are good things to consider.

Beth recommends the following next steps:

Visit APTA.org for more career info
Shadow a therapist to see if you like it.
Get excellent grades, PT school is competitive
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Oksana Ksenia’s Answer

Best way to find out is to volunteer at the local hospital. You will need to complete volunteer hours in any case whether it be for high school or for physical therapy school. Reach out to a local hospital and apply to volunteer. It might also help if you know what area of physical therapy you may be interested in: neuro, ortho, actual rehab or other.
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