What is the Job Description of a Physical Therapist?

The job description of a physical therapist involves the use of a variety of techniques to help patients improve motility and deal with pain better.

The work of physical therapists varies depending on the type of patient.

For example, the type of care a patient who lost motility as a result of a vehicle accident needs differs from the care patient who lost motility as a result of a stroke may require.

As a result, some physical therapists specialize in a particular type of care.

During the course of reading this article, wherever PT is used, please note that it stands for a physical therapist.

Since you are reading this free guide on the job description of a physical therapist, my guess is you are a prospective PT.

Therefore, you should carefully read to the end, don’t hesitate to drop questions if you have any.

Shot of a senior woman being treated by a physiotherapist

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Physical therapists are health care providers who assist sick or injured individuals improve motility and dealing with pain better.

They are an integral part of rehabilitation, preventive health care as well as treatment of individuals with serious injuries or illnesses as well.

Physical therapists care for individuals of different age grades who are suffering from back or neck injuries.

Some of the types of injuries or illnesses physical therapists care for include;

  • Arthritis
  • Amputation
  • Neurological disorder
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Strain
  • Fractures
  • Sprains

They also care for patients with injuries resulting from sport or work.

In order to take care of patients and help them walk or move again, physical therapists use a variety of techniques.

Such techniques include exercise, special and careful movement of muscles and joints.

They also make use of certain equipment, some of which include:

  • Wheelchairs
  • Canes
  • Walker
  • Crunches

Physical therapists work as a team with other doctors and specialists.

Also, they supervise the work of physical therapist assistants.

What are the Duties and Responsibilities of a Physical Therapist?

Here are some of the duties and responsibilities of a physical therapist commonly featured in a physical therapist job description.

 #1. Study and evaluate patient’s medical history

Physical therapists meet with patients, during this meeting, they review and evaluate history or records.

If the patient was referred by other physicians, the physical therapist also reads the referral note before commencing treatment or diagnosis.

#2. Diagnose patients

It is the duty of a physical therapist to diagnose a  patient’s condition.

Diagnosis is done by observing a patient’s movement as well as listening to their complaints or concerns.

They may also carry out other tests and evaluations in order to give an accurate diagnosis.

#3. Develop treatment plan

After proper diagnosis, a physical therapist also develops a unique treatment plan for the patient.

They highlight the desired goal and the expected outcome.

During the course of treatment or care, whenever there is a need to make adjustments to the treatment plan, the physical therapist implements necessary changes.

#4. Make use of a variety of techniques to help patients move

After drafting out a treatment plan as well as setting a desired and realizable goal, the physical therapist makes use of a variety of techniques to help the patient recover.

These techniques may include exercise, hands-on therapy as well as maneuver’s progress

The aim of using these techniques is to help the patient regain mobility and manage pain.

#5. Monitor patient’s progress

It is also the responsibility of a physical therapist to monitor the patient’s progress to see if the treatment plan is as effective as desired.

They also update a patient’s record and may refer a patient to a specialist if need be.

Other duties and responsibilities of a physical therapist commonly featured in a physical therapist job description include:

  • Counsel patients, their loved ones as well as their family on how to scope during the whole process and what to expect.
  • Educate patients on how to use therapeutic exercise properly
  • Keep and maintain patient’s record
  • Work as a team with the patient’s physician to develop a treatment plan and modify it when necessary

What Academic Qualifications do I Need to Become a Physical Therapist?

Just like the road to becoming a nurse, endocrinologist, or any other medical field, the route to becoming a physical therapist requires thorough training.

Here is a very short list of the qualifications you need to become a physical therapist:

  1. Training
  2. Licencing and certification

Of course, it is quite obvious to me that listing them is not enough.

Therefore, I will be kind enough to go ahead to properly explain them.

 1. Training

Some years ago, a bachelor’s degree and/or a master’s degree was just enough to get you through this career path.

But, now prospective physical therapists have to undergo more thorough training.

In the United States, an aspiring physical therapist can obtain a doctorate in physical therapy (DPT) by attending an accredited professional physical therapy program.

Usually, this program takes about 3 years to successfully complete.

This program usually starts off in a classroom and then moves on to clinical experience.

The purpose of clinical experience is to help students develop hands-on skills.

After successful completion of a physical therapy program, you may decide to also enroll in a residency program.

The aim of enrolling for residency is to help you develop skills in your area of expertise.

It may also play a role in fastening your certification.

2. Licensee and certification

Before you can practice physical therapy, aside from attending a professional physical therapy program, you also have to pass the national physical therapy exam, and then apply for a license to practice in your country or state.

A physical therapist may also go on to become a board-certified specialist.

Becoming a board-certified specialist helps physical therapists develop better skills as well as opens up better employment opportunities for them.

But, it takes real hard work to become a board-certified specialist.

It takes 2,000 hours of clinical experience in your specific area of specialization.

That’s not all, you will also have to pass the exam.

A physical therapist can specialize in any of these fields:

  • Neurology
  • Pediatric
  • Orthopedics
  • Sports physical therapy
  • Geriatrics
  • Pulmonary and cardiovascular
  • Women’s health

What Skills Should a Physical Therapist Have?

Apart from the duties and responsibilities of physical therapists and also the required qualification, employers also include some skills that they look out for in physical therapists.

These skills help physical therapists to do the job better.

Some of the common skills featured in the job description of a physical therapist include:

#1. Attention to details

This skill is relevant in diagnosis and treatment as well.

A good physical therapist should be detail-oriented, and very organized as well.

As one, you should be able to observe little changes or details, no matter how insignificant they may be.

#2. Compassion

The overall aim of the job description of a physical therapist is to help sick or injured people move and manage pain better.

Therefore, a good physical therapist must be very compassionate and kind.

It is very important to be sensitive to the emotions of a  patient.

#3. Communication skills

Practically every career requires individuals who can communicate effectively.

A good physical therapist should be able to effectively communicate both the technical and non-technical aspects of his or her job to patients and other health care practitioners as well.

He or she should be able to communicate verbally and in writing as well.

It is very important to note that good communication involves listening as much as it involves speaking.

Therefore a good physical therapist should also be a good listener.

#4. Dexterity

Physical therapists do a lot of hands-on treatment and care.

Therefore it is important that they feel comfortable when massaging and assisting patients physically.

#5. Interpersonal skills

It is also important for a physical therapist to know how to develop a good relationship.

Not just with patients, but their families as well as with other health care providers.

Employers also look out for flexible and resourceful individuals who can easily adapt to the unique needs of each patient.

Having physical stamina to stand and walk for a long time is also very advantageous.

Where Do Physical Therapists Work?

There are a variety of job opportunities for physical therapists out there.

The duties and responsibilities of a physical therapist may vary slightly depending on their place of work.

Some of the typical employers of physical therapists include:

  • Nursing homes
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Governments organizations
  • Research centers
  • Sport and fitness centers
  • Outpatients clinics

Your specific area of specialization may determine where you work?.

How Much Do Physical Therapists Make?

In the United States, the salary of a physical therapist ranges from $62,120 to $124,740 per year.

On average, physical therapists in the United States make up to $89,440 per annum.

These figures may differ depending on your geographical location.

The salary of a physical therapist may be determined by the following factors:

  • Location
  • Experience
  • Qualification
  • Certification

More experience, qualified and certified physical therapists earn more than their colleagues.

Physical Therapist Work Environment and Schedule

Physical therapists spend much of their time standing and helping patients move in the hospital.

Oftentimes, they are usually at risk of back pain and injuries which can be averted by using the right body mechanics.

Unlike other health care providers, physical therapists work during regular working hours.

But, they may also have to work in the evening and during weekends.

Conclusion: Physical Therapist Job Description Guide

Although this guide on the job description of a physical therapist was written with applicants in mind, it can also be used by employers to create a physical therapist job description posting.

The work of a physical therapist may be stressful, but seeing your patients get better and walk move again comes with immeasurable joy.

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