What Are Physical Therapist Jobs Like?

If you are contemplating going into physical therapist jobs, you may want to first consider what physical therapists and their aides do. In high school, I had a few free periods my senior year to fill with whatever I wanted. Because I wanted to pursue a career in physical therapy or podiatry, I chose to work as an intern at a local physical therapy clinic across from my high school. As an intern, I assisted the aides in fulfilling treatments given by the therapist. I also observed how the doctors fulfilled their physical therapist jobs.

This is what I learned about physical therapy jobs in action. The first time a patient comes in with an injury or a joint to be rehabilitated, the physical therapist meets with the patient and discusses what is happening. They massage muscles and joints to feel if there are any deformities, swelling, or flexibility abnormalities. By using certain assessments, they can obtain measurements and information on how well your body is working and what is going wrong. From there they draw up a treatment plan. For minor or acute injuries, you may visit with the physical therapist once or twice to help keep the inflammation down and to stretch the joint or muscle that was injured.

However, if you have a serious acute injury, a more chronic type of injury, or a severe abnormality, you may be visiting the physical therapy clinic weekly for years. After the physical therapist makes the initial assessment, it is up to other key players in physical therapist jobs to follow through with the doctor’s orders or the treatment. They could help you strengthen or stretch certain muscle groups for better balance between the groups, or they could help your muscles just relax. A few of the things I did as an intern were apply heat and cold compresses depending on what the physical therapist said, help the aide operate an electric stimulator, assist patients into chairs, and helped patients regain strength through exercises with bands and marbles. I also changed pillowcases, wiped down the mats, and did laundry.

There are more physical therapy jobs besides physical therapists and interns. Aides have a little more responsibility than interns. They can actually operate the electric machine and also teach patients how to exercise certain muscle groups and even how to use crutches. Assistants and aides sometimes work administratively as well by answering phone calls, filing paperwork, or scheduling appointments. Whatever the aide does depends on the facility, though they cannot do any clinical work because they are not licensed. So for the more part of your visits to the physical therapist, you are actually working with other people in physical therapy jobs, such as aides and interns.

Every once in a while, the physical therapist will meet with you again and adjust your treatment. He also works in the back doing paperwork and trying to find other ways to help improve the function and quality of life of his patients. Physical therapists can work in more than their own facility. You may find physical therapist jobs at places like home health agencies, sports medicine clinics, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and nursing homes. Physical therapists can also specialize. You could do orthopedic physical therapy (this focuses solely on the musculoskeletal system with sports injuries, joint surgeries, and amputations), neurological physical therapy (they work with people who have Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, poor balance, paralysis, etc), pediatric and geriatric (children who have underdeveloped motor skills or cerebral palsy and elderly who have osteoporosis, balance disorders, cancer, or arthritis) physical therapy, and cardiovascular physical therapy (for those who have had surgery or disorders).


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