Employment is expected to increase much faster than average.
- Job opportunities should be good,
particularly in acute hospital, rehabilitation, and orthopedic
- Physical therapists need a masterís degree
from an accredited physical therapy program and a State license,
requiring passing scores on national and State examinations.
- About 6 out of 10 physical therapists work
in hospitals or in offices of physical therapists.
Physical therapists provide services that help restore function,
improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent
physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or
disease. They restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and
health. Their patients include accident victims and individuals with
disabling conditions such as low-back pain, arthritis, heart
disease, fractures, head injuries, and cerebral palsy.
Therapists examine patientsí medical histories and then test and
measure the patientsí strength, range of motion, balance and
coordination, posture, muscle performance, respiration, and motor
function. Next, physical therapists develop plans describing a
treatment strategy and its anticipated outcome.
Treatment often includes exercise, especially for patients who
have been immobilized or who lack flexibility, strength, or
endurance. Physical therapists encourage patients to use their
muscles to increase their flexibility and range of motion. More
advanced exercises focus on improving strength, balance,
coordination, and endurance. The goal is to improve how an
individual functions at work and at home.
Physical therapists also use electrical stimulation, hot packs or
cold compresses, and ultrasound to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
They may use traction or deep-tissue massage to relieve pain and
improve circulation and flexibility. Therapists also teach patients
to use assistive and adaptive devices, such as crutches, prostheses,
and wheelchairs. They also may show patients how to do exercises at
home to expedite their recovery.
As treatment continues, physical therapists document the
patientís progress, conduct periodic examinations, and modify
treatments when necessary.
Physical therapists often consult and practice with a variety of
other professionals, such as physicians, dentists, nurses,
educators, social workers, occupational therapists, speech-language
pathologists, and audiologists.
Some physical therapists treat a wide range of ailments; others
specialize in areas such as
neurology, and cardiopulmonary physical therapy.
Work environment. Physical therapists practice in
hospitals, clinics, and private offices that have specially equipped
facilities. They also treat patients in hospital rooms, homes, or
schools. These jobs can be physically demanding because therapists
often have to stoop, kneel, crouch, lift, and stand for long
periods. In addition, physical therapists move heavy equipment and
lift patients or help them turn, stand, or walk.
In 2006, most full-time physical therapists worked a 40-hour
week; some worked evenings and weekends to fit their patientsí
schedules. About 1 in 5 physical therapists worked part time.