Physical therapists help patients who have experienced illnesses or injuries that limit their range of motion or who have pain or reduced functionality somewhere in their bodies. Some of the conditions that physical therapists help patients with include injuries to the neck and back, arthritis, sprains and fractures. Other conditions that physical therapists help with include diseases that negatively affect the individual’s ability to move freely, such as cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. They assist people through the use of exercise techniques, manual manipulations, and machinery that can work certain muscles and nerves in accordance with the patient’s needs. They also assist patients in achieving general wellness.
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Physical Therapist Occupation Overview
Often the work of a physical therapist comprises a structured plan that will help the patient gradually improve his or her condition. The therapist will assess the patient’s condition and complaints, and will begin by helping them work their muscles if they feel it is appropriate to do so. Once the patient experience improved range of motion in the affected body parts, the physical therapist will then assist the patient in improving their coordination, balance, and physical strength and endurance.
The physical therapist also discusses exercises that the patient can perform at home on their own time, which will help them to improve their conditions more rapidly. The physical therapist also has several techniques they use to help relieve pain should the patient require this relief. These techniques can include hot and cold therapy, massage, and stimuli of a subcutaneous or electrical nature. The therapist will also help the patient to become accustomed to using a piece of equipment that they need to function, such as a prosthetic limb. Often the physical therapist’s work will coincide with that of physicians and other therapists.
Physical Therapist Work Environment
Typically, physical therapists work in hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. Many therapists find that they have to be physically strong and flexible in order to complete their work, because their jobs require them to stand, crouch, and kneel over long stretches of time. Therapists will also be required to lift patients onto physical therapy machinery. There may be a requirement that these physical therapists work on evenings and weekends.
Physical Therapist Training
Aspiring physical therapists must be certified to administer this therapy by completing a post-baccalaureate program in this field. If you are considering becoming a physical therapist, you also must pass a state examination in order to practice this therapy. Physical therapists must take courses in pathology, pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, and biology. More complex and specific courses like histology and biomechanics are often necessary as well. You will often have to learn about exercise physiology so you know what happens to a patient’s body when they undergo certain manipulations. Training on this subject will help you to learn what kinds of exercises are best for individuals with certain motion limitations or pain in certain areas. You must also be trained to screen patients for medical conditions and, examine and test patients, and to assess their particular situations for the most likely outcomes of the therapy. You will learn about patient diagnostics and clinical practice. Your training will include classroom instruction and laboratory instruction.
You will also have to engage in hands-on practice in a clinic and will undergo supervision when doing so to make sure you are following policies and procedures. Before enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program in physical therapy, aspiring physical therapists like you will typically have a strong background in science and math and will take courses in physics, chemistry, biology, and statistics, among other courses. It is helpful as well if you have worked in the medical field before on either a paid or volunteer basis. Physical therapists must have at least a master’s degree in order to practice, though doctoral degrees in this field are available. The master’s degree usually takes anywhere from 2 to 2 and a half years, whereas the doctoral degree will require 3 years of study.
Physical Therapist Licensing
Physical therapists must be licensed in the state in which they wish to practice. This means that they have to pass a licensing exam. In addition, they will have to graduate from a program that is accredited. Some will have to demonstrate that they are engaging in continuing their educations in the field in order to maintain their licenses.
Other Qualifications for Physical Therapists
In general, since you will be working with people, as a physical therapist you will need to be able to have good person-to-person skills. You must be able to communicate with patients clearly so that you can discuss their conditions, therapy, and anticipated outcomes with them. You should also have a degree of compassion when dealing with patients. Most people who enter this field have a yearning to help others.
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