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What is it like to be a physical Therapist?

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Doc’s Answer

To become a physical therapist Maureen, you must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, so the first step to becoming a licensed physical therapist is to earn your bachelor’s degree. Your bachelor's degree does not need to be in physical therapy, but it is recorded you choose a health field related to it, such as biology, chemistry, or physiology.

When applying to a DPT program with a bachelor's degree, most will require that you have taken specific prerequisite courses as part of your undergraduate coursework. The particular courses will depend on the DPT program, but common prerequisites include courses in anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and statistics. You will also likely have to meet a minimum GPA requirement and Graduate Record Examination score. In addition, you will typically need some experience in a physical therapy setting, either as a volunteer or paid position.

Choose a DPT program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) to ensure it is a qualified entry-level education program. The CAPTE is recognized by the US Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The CAPTE awards its specialized accreditation status to qualified educational programs for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. Having accreditation helps assure the quality of the education that you receive.

ADVANCED CERTIFICATION

Some of the prominent areas of specialization in physical therapy include:

• ORTHOPEDICD: Physical therapists specializing in orthopedics focus on treating musculoskeletal conditions, such as fractures, joint injuries, and post-surgical rehabilitation.

• NEUROLOGY: Neurological physical therapists work with patients who have neurological disorders and conditions, such as stroke, traumatic brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.

• PEDIATRIC: Pediatric physical therapists specialize in working with infants, children, and adolescents, addressing developmental delays, congenital conditions, and injuries.

• SPORTS THERAPY: Physical therapists specializing in sports therapy collaborate with athletes to prevent and rehabilitate sports-related injuries.
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Donna’s Answer

As a physical therapist for 35+ years in several different settings, I found each setting had its own rewards and challenges. PT's can work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, skilled nursing facilities,home health, school systems, etc. In each setting, it was extremely rewarding to work with patients to achieve their highest level of independence, improve their function or decrease their pain. A typical day had regularly scheduled patients for the PT to see, either for an initial evaluation or ongoing treatment. Some settings have PT Assistants or aids to help with aspects of treatments; others the PT does the entire treatment themselves. As patients improve, you change their treatment goals and set up a new program for them to work on, so the work is ever-changing and can be very challenging when a patient isn't improving or cooperating. Most patient interactions are very enjoyable.
There is always the paperwork/computer charting aspect of the job and that can be exasperating some days, but it is necessary to do that well so someone else can step in to work with your patient if you can't. Also, there are opportunities to work both full and part time in PT, as your own life events change.

Donna recommends the following next steps:

Investigate the American Physical Therapy Association website (apta.org)
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