Physical Therapist Job Description| Duties & Responsibilities

The job description of a physical therapist involves using various 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 due to a vehicle accident needs differs from the care patient who lost motility due to 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 the term “PT” is used, please note that it stands for physical therapist.

Since you are reading this free guide on a physical therapist’s job description, I guess you are a prospective PT.

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

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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 in improving motility and deal with pain better.

They are integral to rehabilitation, preventive health care, and treating individuals with serious injuries or illnesses.

Physical therapists care for individuals of different ages 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 sports or work.

Physical therapists use various techniques to care for patients and help them walk or move again.

Such techniques include exercise and 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.

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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 the Patient’s Medical History

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

If other physicians refer the patient, the physical therapist reads the referral note before commencing treatment or diagnosis.

#2. Diagnose Patients

A physical therapist must diagnose a  patient’s condition.

A diagnosis is made by observing patients’ movements and listening to their complaints or concerns.

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

#3. Develop Treatment Plan

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

They highlight the desired goal and the expected outcome.

During treatment or care, the physical therapist implements the necessary changes whenever there is a need to adjust the treatment plan.

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#4. Make use of a variety of Techniques to help Patients move

After drafting a treatment plan and setting a desired and realizable goal, the physical therapist uses various techniques to help the patient recover.

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

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

#5. Monitor the 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.

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

  • Counsel patients, their loved ones, and their families on how to scope during the process and what to expect.
  • Educate patients on how to use therapeutic exercise properly
  • Keep and maintain patient record
  • Work 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?

Like the road to becoming a nurse, endocrinologist, or any other medical field, 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. Licensing and certification

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

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

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 1. Training

Some years ago, a bachelor’s degree and/or a master’s degree were 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 complete.

This program usually starts in a classroom and then progresses to clinical experience.

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

After completing 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 must 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 and provides better employment opportunities.

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 the required qualification, employers also include some skills they look out for in physical therapists.

These skills help physical therapists to do the job better.

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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 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.

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

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

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

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#4. Dexterity

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

Therefore, they must 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, their families, and other healthcare providers.

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

Physical stamina to stand and walk for a long time is also 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 following factors may determine the salary of a physical therapist:

  • 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 time standing and helping patients move in the hospital.

They are usually at risk of back pain and injuries, which can be avoided 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.

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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 and move again comes with immeasurable joy.

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