A physical therapist must not only have appropriate education and training for the job but also be able to verify practical and applicable experience in the field of physical therapy. The physical therapist must also be certified at state and sometimes national levels. Certification requirements vary for states, countries and types of physical therapists. These certifications are obtained through passing licensing exams, and continuing education is required to keep them current and valid.
Physical therapists treat patients of all ages, from different backgrounds and with different conditions. These include victims of accidents recovering from fractures and head injuries and people with disabling conditions like cerebral palsy, heart disease, arthritis and chronic back pain. The therapists engage their patients in treatments and exercises that alleviate pain, enhance mobility and bring back lost functions. They also provide patients with regimens and exercises that prevent or limit the scope of permanent physical disabilities.
While all days are unique, a physical therapist's daily work experience will likely include reviewing patient medical histories and noting any recent changes in conditions or medications. Daily procedures also normally include testing and documenting the patients' progress in coordination, balance and strength. Stretching and bending exercises are used to measure improvements in the patient's range of motion. Depending on the nature of the patient's condition and prognosis, the physical therapist may also analyze muscle performance, posture, respiration and motor skills.
Physical therapists are instrumental in deciding when patients are ready to take steps toward independence, reintegration into daily routines or returning to their work duties. The physical therapist is often instrumental in creating long- and short-term treatment plans for patients in post-care situations. They are expected to not only restore mobility in their patients but also encourage long-term fitness and health.
Physical therapists work with other health care professionals in patient treatment. They confer with physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists and other physical therapists. As part of this team, they offer suggestions on treatments and care. They are employed by rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, hospitals and as private in-home therapists.
Before being accredited and approved to take licensing exams, physical therapists must complete formal education at a college or university. An undergraduate degree that includes required courses is needed; the prerequisite requirements vary for advanced degree programs. Both master's degrees and doctorates in physical therapy are offered through accredited physical therapy programs.
- Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Chris Dlugosz
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