What is Physical Therapy?
Basically, physical therapy is the medical practice of helping people better live their lives through specific exercises, one-on-one care (“manual” therapy), and patient support.
People are often prescribed a course of physical therapy:
- For chronic pain, as an alternative to medication regimens;
- After surgeries which impact a patient’s muscles or bones, such as hip replacements; or
- To recover from accidents and injuries.
While most people go to physical therapy at their doctor’s recommendation, physical therapists can also help everyday people to avoid injuries in the first place and live healthier, more physically active lives.
Where Can Military Spouses Work in Physical Therapy?
Physical therapists work in many different settings, including:
- Large clinics, retirement homes, and hospitals, where they may be responsible for many patients at a time;
- Independent practices, either with a single location or through in-home therapy services as “concierge” therapists;
- Schools and universities, to heal student athletes and help them stay fit;
- Workplaces, to teach employees how to best perform their jobs without getting hurt and to address on-the-job injuries; and
- Private “travel therapist” companies, which offer flexible contracts and extra benefits as part of short-term stints at a variety of employers.
Who Should Consider Working In Physical Therapy?
The sorts of people who would especially enjoy working in physical therapy are:
- Eager to help others and can deal with complaints or problems with grace as part of a “patient-centered” medical practice;
- Creative and curious, so as to best figure out possible solutions for their patients’ problems and enjoy learning throughout their career;
- Physically fit and active, as the job can demand a lot of movement and demonstration of exercises;
- Natural teachers who want their patients to understand the “why” behind their problems and their treatments; and
- Excellent listeners to truly hear what their patients’ problems are.
What Do Military Spouses Need to Do to Work In Physical Therapy?
There’s a reason there’s a pent-up demand for physical therapists and physical therapy assistants: You have to jump through quite a few hoops before you’re legally allowed to practice in the United States.
Most physical therapy assistants have at least their associate’s degrees; full-fledged physical therapists hold a masters or doctorate degrees. That means anywhere from 3-7 years of schooling, depending on what you want to do.
(Not to mention that physical therapy is a regulated medical field.)
As such, it requires specialized training and certifications, as well as specific licenses per state that often require ongoing education throughout a professional’s working life.
Finally, both physical therapists and physical therapy assistants must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in order to become licensed professionals allowed to work in the United States.
It takes a lot of work and dedication to become a physical therapist. But then? The payoff is being able to help patients from all backgrounds heal from their injuries or just feel better about their everyday lives.
The people who make the best physical therapists are the ones who will do whatever it takes to make sure every patient achieves their personal goals, instead of how fast they can possibly get through as many people as possible.
So, are you up for the challenge of patient-centered practice? If so, then it’s time to get started on your physical therapy career.