Becoming a physical therapist is very similar to entering any other professional medical field. You have to go to college and get an undergraduate degree, apply to physical therapy school, obtain a master’s, and be licensed so you can practice. To prepare for physical therapy school, you must first go to a four-year college or university and graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Regardless of what bachelor’s degree you obtain, there will be prerequisites that you have to complete to qualify for admission to physical therapy school. When you graduate with or are finishing up your undergraduate degree, you will apply to the schools you’re interested in attending. After you get in, you will do a combination of coursework and clinical work. Once you have successfully completed physical therapy school, you will have a master of physical therapy degree. In addition to obtaining a master’s, you will need to obtain a license to practice, which requires passing both a national and state exam. It is important to be aware of the regulations and exam dates of the state you would like to work in before you graduate. When you have your license, you will be required to renew it on a regular basis and to take continuing education to keep up with new knowledge and current topics.
Abilities Needed by a Physical Therapist
As a physical therapist, you will need to relate well to all types of people. Your primary relationship will be with your patients. With that can come with a lot of negative emotions such as anger, frustration, grief, denial, and hopelessness. They will likely be in pain and may even be depressed. Their emotional state may result in noncompliance, and they might even lash out at you. You have to be patient, compassionate, and sympathize with your patient’s situation. You have to talk to your patient about what they are going through and how you are going to help them get better. It is also important not to take any verbal abuse personally and let a patient know that inappropriate behavior is unacceptable.
You will not only be communicating with your patients, but also with their other doctors, nurses, aides, and families. Communicating with medical staff is imperative as they will provide you with the patient’s medical history and state of mind going into physical therapy. It is likely that you will probably talk to them before you see the patient for the first time. Once you meet the patient, you will talk to them about their concerns and what they want to get out of physical therapy so you can develop a regimen for them. Their family, a support system for them, will also give you insight into the patient’s frame of mind and may be able to emphasize to the patient how important physical therapy is to their recovery.
Physical therapists have to assist people to various extents in exercises. You will be helping them stand, walk, and do exercises that require you to stoop or kneel for long periods of time. Your physically fitness will not only be a good example to your patient, but it will allow you to assist them in the exercises they need to do to get stronger.
Observing your patients is extremely important.
- Are they getting better or worse?
- Or is there no change?
- Are the exercises working for that patient?
- How are they doing mentally and emotionally?
There are objective tests that can be performed to diagnose conditions and measure strength, but many observations are often subjective. A patient’s relevant medical history must be thoroughly looked at to make sure there is a clear understanding of their problems. The physical therapist must take the time to do a thorough assessment and ask the patient what they want to achieve. Physical therapists need to take detailed notes throughout their treatment so they can make a complete assessment of the patient’s progress. Also, you should be open to asking your colleagues for a second opinion if you are not sure about a patient’s condition or if your management plan is right for them.
It is very important for a physical therapist to keep an open mind and critically think about their cases. Maybe a particular exercise needs to be modified for an individual patient or a regimen that is not working needs to be changed. While a solid education in physical therapy school is very important in teaching you how to treat common problems, remember that each patient in front of you is different in their issues, needs, and goals. Also make sure their problem has been correctly identified, and if you believe that it has not, reevaluate the patient so the appropriate approach can be taken.