Physical therapists are health care professionals who diagnose and treat patients with health conditions and limited ability to move and perform daily activities. They help in restoring physical function and mobility and teach how to properly use therapeutic exercise techniques. They also help promote overall wellness and encourage healthier and more active lifestyles. They design a recovery plan unique for every patient, provide treatment and therapy to help improve and manage their condition. They provide care to all kinds of individuals, from newborns to people at the end of their life.

Physical Therapist Responsibilities

Here are examples of responsibilities from real physical therapist resumes representing typical tasks they are likely to perform in their roles.

  • Conduct in-services and train colleagues in effective techniques for safely managing the CVA patient.
  • Achieve high level of patients satisfaction due to sound clinical management, quality of care and compassion.
  • Perform physical therapy evaluation and treatment of orthopedic patients and supervise PTAs.
  • Progress patients' functional mobility during treatment sessions by modifying task, intensity, and adaptive equipment utilize.
  • Motivate patients to participate in treatment sessions by educating them on the benefits of early mobility following cardiac and thoracic surgery.
  • Experience include IFSP and IEP writing and implementation
  • Design plans of care for patients including amputees, CVA's, and special needs patients.
  • Evaluate and treat rehabilitation setting patients that include orthopedic, COPD, and general decline in function patients
  • Provide therapy to patients who recently undergo TKA, THA, spinal surgery, cardiac surgery, or brain surgery
  • Set up iontophoresis patches, perform ultrasounds, and apply heat, ice, and tens units for patients.
  • Provide physical therapy services for community-base SNF and long-term care facility.
  • Lead preoperative information sessions for patients schedule to have joint replacement surgery.
  • Set patients up for traction and assist patients with rehabilitation exercises and different therapy regimens.
  • Provide physical therapy services in SNF setting for general medical, orthopedic, and neurological disorders.
  • Support physical therapists by leading patients in exercises, providing ice/heat, ultrasound and electric stimulation.

Physical Therapist Skills and Personality Traits

We calculated that 30% of Physical Therapists are proficient in Patients, Rehabilitation, and Home Health. They’re also known for soft skills such as Compassion, Detail oriented, and Dexterity.

We break down the percentage of Physical Therapists that have these skills listed on their resume here:

  • Patients, 30%

    Prepared patients for physical therapy treatment by welcoming, comforting, providing and/or assisting patient into physical therapy apparel or apertures.

  • Rehabilitation, 15%

    Specialized in outpatient orthopedic rehabilitation.

  • Home Health, 13%

    Evaluated and treated home health patients Communicated with physicians and case managers Coordinated care with nursing, speech and occupational therapy

  • Quality Care, 5%

    Supervised qualified Physical Therapist assistants and Aides offering encouragement and guidance aimed at providing high level of quality care.

  • Physical Therapy, 3%

    Performed orthopedic/neurological skilled physical therapy treatments

  • Treatment Programs, 3%

    Evaluated and implemented physical therapy treatment programs for patients in an outpatient setting with a variety of orthopedic and neurological diagnoses.

Some of the skills we found on physical therapist resumes included "patients," "rehabilitation," and "home health." We have detailed the most important physical therapist responsibilities below.

  • Compassion can be considered to be the most important personality trait for a physical therapist to have. According to a physical therapist resume, "physical therapists are often drawn to the profession in part by a desire to help people" physical therapists are able to use compassion in the following example we gathered from a resume: "achieved high level of patients satisfaction due to sound clinical management, quality of care and compassion. "
  • While it may not be the most important skill, we found that many physical therapist duties rely on detail oriented. This example from a physical therapist explains why: "like other healthcare providers, physical therapists should have strong analytic and observational skills to diagnose a patient’s problem, evaluate treatments, and provide safe, effective care." This resume example is just one of many ways physical therapists are able to utilize detail oriented: "trained and oriented interns and physical therapy assistants. "
  • Dexterity is also an important skill for physical therapists to have. This example of how physical therapists use this skill comes from a physical therapist resume, "physical therapists must use their hands to provide manual therapy and therapeutic exercises" Read this excerpt from a resume to understand how vital it is to their everyday roles and responsibilities, "expedited hands on rehabilitation programs for patients including teaching range of motion exercises, using various modalities and massage therapy. "
  • A thorough review of lots of resumes revealed to us that "interpersonal skills" is important to completing physical therapist responsibilities. This resume example shows just one way physical therapists use this skill: "because physical therapists spend a lot of time interacting with patients, they should enjoy working with people" Here's an example of how this skill is used from a resume that represents typical physical therapist tasks: "established an empathetic approach with each patients and maintained an excellent interpersonal relationship to encourage them re-discover their limits. "
  • Another common skill for a physical therapist to be able to utilize is "physical stamina." Physical therapists spend much of their time on their feet, moving as they demonstrate proper techniques and help patients perform exercises a physical therapist demonstrated the need for this skill by putting this on their resume: "perform specialized patient care evaluations, identify complex patient problems and integrate physical therapy treatment with other health care professionals. "
  • See the full list of physical therapist skills.

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    What Rehabilitation Technicians Do

    A rehabilitation technician is responsible for assisting therapists and other medical personnel on supporting the patients in their daily activities and physical therapy sessions. Rehabilitation technicians provide high-quality care services for the patients by administering medications, accompanying them on medical appointments, and ensuring the cleanliness and orderliness of all equipment and facilities to prevent hazards within the premises. They may also perform administrative and clerical duties such as updating patients' information on the database, writing reports, processing payments for medical procedures, and maintaining medical charts for reference.

    In this section, we compare the average physical therapist annual salary with that of a rehabilitation technician. Typically, rehabilitation technicians earn a $43,537 lower salary than physical therapists earn annually.

    While the salaries between these two careers can be different, they do share some of the same responsibilities. Employees in both physical therapists and rehabilitation technicians positions are skilled in patients, rehabilitation, and physical therapy.

    These skill sets are where the common ground ends though. A physical therapist responsibility is more likely to require skills like "home health," "quality care," "treatment programs," and "snf." Whereas a rehabilitation technician requires skills like "cpr," "customer service," "rehabilitation services," and "direct supervision." Just by understanding these different skills you can see how different these careers are.

    Rehabilitation technicians receive the highest salaries in the health care industry coming in with an average yearly salary of $30,968. But physical therapists are paid more in the professional industry with an average salary of $74,879.

    The education levels that rehabilitation technicians earn is a bit different than that of physical therapists. In particular, rehabilitation technicians are 8.3% less likely to graduate with a Master's Degree than a physical therapist. Additionally, they're 16.3% less likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

    What Are The Duties Of a Certified Athletic Trainer?

    A certified athletic trainer is a health and medical expert who specializes in providing health care assistance to athletes. They typically devise strategies to prevent injuries during training sessions and other activities, develop health care plans, and provide immediate care or first aid when injuries occur. There are also instances where they work together with physicians and other health care professionals, such as when diagnosing and treating injuries, developing rehabilitation structures, and administrating other health care services.

    Next up, we have the certified athletic trainer profession to look over. This career brings along a lower average salary when compared to a physical therapist annual salary. In fact, certified athletic trainers salary difference is $25,886 lower than the salary of physical therapists per year.

    A similarity between the two careers of physical therapists and certified athletic trainers are a few of the skills associated with both roles. We used resumes from both professions to find that both use skills like "patients," "rehabilitation," and "patient education. "

    In addition to the difference in salary, there are some other key differences that are worth noting. For example, physical therapist responsibilities are more likely to require skills like "home health," "quality care," "physical therapy," and "treatment programs." Meanwhile, a certified athletic trainer might be skilled in areas such as "cpr," "patient care," "athletic events," and "osha." These differences highlight just how different the day-to-day in each role looks.

    When it comes to the differences in education between the two professions, certified athletic trainers tend to reach similar levels of education than physical therapists. In fact, they're 3.6% more likely to graduate with a Master's Degree and 16.3% less likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

    What Technology Do You Think Will Become More Important And Prevalent For Physical Therapists In The Next 3-5 Years?

    Dr. Todd Roach D.C.

    Assistant Professor of Biology, Aurora University

    There has always been a lot of technology in treatment modalities, but I think the most significant advances will be in patient communication and retention. There is so much information available, but it is hard to sort through. As chiropractors, we can do a lot more for patients by addressing lifestyle and nutrition, and in-office treatments. I believe the advances will help patients outside of the office, assist them to "outside" of the office.Show more

    How an Exercise Specialist Compares

    An Exercise Specialist creates exercise plans designed to improve health for clients, such as those at high risk for heart, metabolic, or lung disease. They work at health clubs, hotels, gyms, and hospitals.

    The exercise specialist profession generally makes a lower amount of money when compared to the average salary of physical therapists. The difference in salaries is exercise specialists making $31,401 lower than physical therapists.

    By looking over several physical therapists and exercise specialists resumes, we found that both roles utilize similar skills, such as "patients," "rehabilitation," and "physical therapy." But beyond that the careers look very different.

    Some important key differences between the two careers are a few of the skills necessary to fulfill responsibilities. Some examples from physical therapist resumes include skills like "home health," "quality care," "treatment programs," and "snf," whereas an exercise specialist might be skilled in "patient care," "customer service," "blood pressure," and "cpr. "

    Exercise specialists make a very good living in the health care industry with an average annual salary of $42,086. Whereas physical therapists are paid the highest salary in the professional industry with the average being $74,879.

    Exercise specialists typically study at similar levels compared with physical therapists. For example, they're 1.7% less likely to graduate with a Master's Degree, and 16.3% less likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

    Description Of an Athletic Trainer

    An athletic trainer is a healthcare professional who works with physicians to improve a patient's quality of life. Their profession encompasses the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of chronic medical conditions involving disabilities, functional limitations, and impairments. As an athletic trainer, you will typically do various tasks, including recognizing and evaluating injuries, providing emergency care or first aid, and developing and implementing rehabilitation programs. You are also responsible for planning and implementing programs to help prevent sports injuries among athletes.

    Now, we'll look at athletic trainers, who generally average a lower pay when compared to physical therapists annual salary. In fact, the difference is about $26,042 per year.

    According to resumes from both physical therapists and athletic trainers, some of the skills necessary to complete the responsibilities of each role are similar. These skills include "patients," "rehabilitation," and "compassion. "

    While some skills are shared by these professions, there are some differences to note. "home health," "quality care," "physical therapy," and "treatment programs" are skills that have shown up on physical therapists resumes. Additionally, athletic trainer uses skills like cpr, patient care, student athletes, and athletic injuries on their resumes.

    In general, athletic trainers reach similar levels of education when compared to physical therapists resumes. Athletic trainers are 2.5% more likely to earn their Master's Degree and 16.2% less likely to graduate with a Doctoral Degree.

    What a Physical Therapist Does FAQs

    Dpt Vs. Pt

    The difference between DPT and PT is important in physical therapy and the medical field. While they both are physical therapists, their requirements and qualifications vary.

    A DPT is a doctor of physical therapy, which means they hold a doctorate of physical therapy. A physical therapist is a licensed physical therapy professional that has completed an accredited program and typically holds a master's degree.

    Do Physical Therapists Go To Med School?

    No, physical therapists do not need to go to med school. However, to become a physical therapist, you must complete a doctorate of physical therapy degree from a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education-accredited physical therapist education program and pass a state licensure exam.

    How Hard Is It To Become A Physical Therapist?

    It is fairly hard to become a physical therapist. It requires getting accepted to a highly competitive physical therapy program and years of advanced schooling. To work as a physical therapist, for instance, means completing a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program.

    How Many Hours Do Physical Therapists Work?

    Most physical therapists work 40 hours per week. Their work hours generally range from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, but some may start earlier or work later in the evening to accommodate their patient's schedules.

    Clinics usually try to have hours that accommodate the working public, so it is common to find practices that are open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

    Typically, the same physical therapist is not there for the entire duration of the day, instead, the shifts are split between 2 or more physical therapists.

    Physical therapists who work in hospitals or nursing homes may need to work hours on the weekends or holidays to provide continuous patient care. Some therapists prefer to work 4, 10-hour days with their day starting at 8:00 am and ending at 6:30 pm.

    This schedule allows the physical therapist to schedule patients on an interval basis since most patients require at least 2 sessions per week. In addition to the 40 hours spent providing care to patients, most full-time physical therapists will spend extra time doing notes and creating treatment plans.

    Outpatient therapy clinics are known for having longer hours. If you are looking for more flexibility in your scheduling, working as a physical therapist in a home health setting may be something to consider. While the hours can vary, most home health therapists have their first patient at 8:00 am and end their day around 4:00 pm.

    How Many Years Will It Take To Become A Physical Therapist?

    It will take between 6 to 7 years to become a physical therapist. First, you must earn a bachelor's degree (4-years), followed by a doctorate of physical therapy (2 to 3 years).

    If you're a non-traditional student thinking about a career change, some DMT programs will take individuals with bachelor's degrees in unrelated fields (e.g., psychology, economics). Going this route usually takes three years to complete the program.

    How To Reduce Physical Therapist Burnout

    To reduce physical therapist burnout, you must practice self-care, leave your work at work, and connect with colleagues for support. For a more detailed guide, look at these strategies in this guide:

    Is It Worth It To Be A Physical Therapist?

    Yes, being a physical therapist is worth it. A physical therapist earns good money, has a flexible schedule, and has options to experience a lot of variability in the type of jobs they work in as a physical therapist. If that wasn't good enough, they also experience high levels of job satisfaction and overall health.

    What Are The Best Gifts For A Physical Therapist?

    Unique art pieces, personalized white coat hangers, or a personalized physical therapist tote are the best gifts for a physical therapist. Decor that your physical therapist can use in their office is always a welcome gift.

    What Are The Pros And Cons Of Being A Physical Therapist?

    The high demand, great earning potential, and ability to work in a variety of settings are pros of being a physical therapist while the education requirements, financial burden, and physical demands of the job are cons.

    What Does A Physical Therapist Wear?

    A physical therapist wears scrubs or exercise pants and a polo shirt. Most physical therapists that work in medical-related settings, such as hospitals or clinics, wear medical scrubs.

    However, it is not uncommon for a physical therapist to wear workout gear instead of scrubs, depending on the facility they are working in.

    What Is A Typical Day For A Physical Therapist?

    A typical day for a physical therapist starts with an assessment of a patient's condition. The therapist may then suggest a course of treatment that includes exercise therapy as well as manual therapy techniques to help improve mobility and reduce pain.

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