Physical therapy is one of our allied health professionals that, through evidence-based modalities, therapy prescribing, exercise, kinesiology and rehabilitation, physical therapy practice can help patients live a healthier, longer life. With the increasing popularity of physical therapy, the need for qualified physical therapists has increased significantly.
Physical Therapy also provides treatment in areas such as rehabilitation, sports medicine and pediatric physical therapy. It is also an important part of physical therapy education programs. In general, physical therapy is part of a team of practitioners. Physical therapists work alongside a primary care provider and the patient’s family and may be referred to as a family practitioner. In addition to working with patients on an individual basis, they often collaborate with other professionals such as orthopedists, chiropractors and physical therapists.
To become a physical therapist, a person needs to complete a physical therapy internship or master’s degree. In general, physical therapy internships are three to six months and master’s degrees may take up to twelve years.
For students interested in pursuing a career in physical therapy, there are two basic options. A student can enroll in a bachelor’s degree program at an accredited university or college and become a licensed physical therapist. The second option is to enroll in an associate’s degree program that will take four years and earn a certificate in physical therapy. Many states now require that individuals who wish to practice physical therapy take one or both of these programs. Other states may even require that physical therapy students complete a master’s degree in physical therapy before they can practice.
Once physically therapy students graduate, they can apply for jobs in the field or take a physical therapy exam. A physical therapist test measures the student’s physical conditioning and ability to tolerate the stressors encountered during therapy sessions. This certification is used to determine if the student can effectively provide physical therapy services. Some states even require that physical therapy students to pass a national examination to be certified.
Many physical therapy interns work with people who are having difficulty with mobility due to illness or injury or disease. The physical therapist internship may require the physical therapist to assist patients who are experiencing pain or disabilities due to aging, injury or surgery, among other issues.
As an occupational therapist, the physical therapy intern works with patients who are physically challenged and have problems that affect their ability to work or perform routine tasks. Occupational therapists are responsible for helping patients with such conditions as asthma, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy and autism, among other conditions.
The physical therapy internship and certification programs are both rigorous and difficult but rewarding experiences. Students who are successful in completing these programs are often well rewarded with the opportunity to continue their education and practice as physical therapists. There is a high demand for physical therapy professionals in the medical community, especially in rehabilitation and orthopedic settings.
A physical therapy internship involves a lot of research and learning, and the physical therapy student will spend many long hours participating in classroom lectures and laboratory exercises. Upon successful completion of the internship, students can apply to become registered nurses. They will also be required to undergo a national certification exam.
Once a physical therapist has successfully completed their internship, they may want to pursue further study. Most physical therapy schools offer a bachelor’s degree program in physical therapy or a master’s degree in physical therapy. For most students, this is the time for them to begin looking for employment or obtain employment within a hospital or rehabilitation facility.
In addition to the physical therapy coursework, physical therapy schools also offer courses that teach students how to provide care and supervision to patients who are unable to walk, are wheelchair bound or need assistance getting dressed. After completing the physical therapy training, students can pursue positions in hospitals, doctors’ offices, physical therapy clinics, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. The goal of physical therapy schools is to prepare students for careers as clinical physical therapists.
Once physically-trained, physical therapy students are able to start practicing in an actual rehabilitation setting and are able to work alongside patients who require more specialized care. Physical therapy schools will usually train students to manage and administer physical therapy therapies in a wide variety of settings, such as hospitals, medical settings and rehabilitation centers. Many physical therapists specialize in specific areas of physical therapy and can provide their patients with the most appropriate treatment for a variety of physical conditions.