Physiotherapy, also known as Physical Therapy, is a branch of medicine dedicated to the repair and restoration of physical mobility of patients that have suffered some form of physical trauma. Physiotherapists use extensive knowledge of human anatomy as well as special tools and aids (e.g. bars, balls, and other exercise machines) in order to create series of repetitive movements aimed towards alleviating pain and mobility restrictions derived from injuries and illnesses.
The vast majority of Physiotherapists work in hospitals, clinics, and other health centers dedicated to this specialty. However, like many branches of Medicine, Physiotherapy has its own subcategories, which vary depending on the source of the trauma and the different types of treatment that are required for each. Some specializations available include Sports, Geriatric, Orthopedic, and Neurologic Physiotherapy. Therefore, it is common for specialized Physiotherapists to work in close proximity to their usual patients, in sports clubs or retirement homes, for example. Self-employment is also a common form of work for professionals in this field.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Physiotherapists are required to complete.
- Designing and implementing a treatment plan for individual patients aimed towards alleviating pains and restoring their physical mobility:
- Reading and analyzing Physician referrals in order to assign the best treatment;
- performing an initial evaluation of the patient’s mobility;
- designing a treatment program that may last weeks in order to rehabilitate the patient, making changes and adjustments when necessary;
- assisting patients to move from one place to another and to perform different forms of exercise designed to help them regain mobility;
- providing manual assistance when necessary;
- instructing patients and their families on exercises and routines that can be done at home in order to improve results;
- keeping records of their patients’ improvements, prognosis, and goals achieved;
- conferring with medical professionals in order to assess the therapy’s progress and redesign programs when needed; and
- discharging patients once treatment has reached the expected goals.
- Keeping up-to-date with the latest techniques, achievements, and treatments in Physiotherapy:
- Attending and holding professional seminars, conferences, and congresses with other professionals of their field in order to share new methods and treatments; and
- staying up-to-date with the applicable regulations, policies, and restrictions.
- Receiving new patients and analyzing their medical history in order to design an appropriate treatment plan.
- Providing treatment to patients following a pre-established program and Physician instructions or recommendations.
- Keeping track and records of patients’ treatments, improvement, and prognosis.
- Evaluating the progress of each patient until the treatment plan is fulfilled.
The average Physiotherapist salary in USA is $46,216 per year or $24 per hour. This is around 1.6 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $32,000 while most experienced workers make up to $65,000. These results are based on 12 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Excellent interpersonal, communication, and counseling skills:
- Communicating clearly, especially verbally, in order to create a comforting and transparent environment with patients and their relatives, providing answers to their questions and addressing their concerns;
- being able to convey clear instructions to patients regarding their treatments; and
- displaying strong customer service skills, setting high standards of patient care and safety, treating every patient with dignity and respect.
- Strong sense of empathy, compassion, and altruism:
- Demonstrating sensitivity to individual needs of patients;
- motivating patients, offering emotional support and having a positive attitude; and
- displaying an inherent ability to make others feel cared about.
- High levels of manual dexterity, motor coordination, and physical strength:
- Displaying exceptional attention to detail and good hand skills, having outstanding hand-eye coordination;
- being able to be on their feet for long periods of time;
- possessing enough physical strength to lift and carry patients when necessary; and
- assisting and often carrying patients with low or limited mobility.
- Exceptional professionalism and strong work ethic.
- Great sense of dedication, commitment, responsibility, and reliability.
- Ability to handle sensitive and confidential information.
In order to become a Physiotherapist, aspirants must have a bachelor’s degree in Health Science, Biology, or any other related field to eventually aim for a doctoral or master’s physical therapy degree program (DPT), granted by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). There are over 200 programs available in several accredited academic institutions throughout the country, all of which usually last three years. Once aspirants complete the DTP, they have the option of joining a residency program to have additional training, increase their medical knowledge, and gain more experience.
When it comes to licensing, each state follows its own jurisdiction and regulations; however, in order to be licensed, it is a mandatory requirement to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination, issued by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).
Although not obligatory, Physiotherapists can be certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS), which offers certifications in 8 clinical areas (Cardiovascular and Pulmonary, Clinical Electrophysiology, Geriatrics, Neurology, Oncology, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Sports, and Women's Health). However, if interested in this process, applicants are required to be licensed; to have completed at least 2,000 working hours or have been part of a residency program; and to have passed the specialist’s certification exam.