What Physiotherapist/ Physical Therapist Does
Physiotherapists, also referred to as physical therapists in some parts of the world, help people improve or restore their mobility and function through the use of kinesiology, bio-mechanics, exercise therapy, manual therapy, and electrotherapy. Most work in a clinical setting where they examine patients, provide a diagnosis, and carry out treatment, though others are involved in research, education, and administration.
Who would enjoy a career in Physiotherapy/ Phsyical Therapy?
As with most health careers, becoming a physio may be the ideal path for someone who wants to improve the lives of others and has a great deal of compassion. Schooling requirements vary based on the region, but in most cases, there is a lengthy educational and licensing process, so it’s important that the individual genuinely enjoy learning and have a deep understanding of how the human body works. The career can also offer a comfortable salary and standard work hours, making it worthwhile for those who appreciate balance.
Who mightn't like the career?
Physios have a demanding job in a number of ways. First, it can be physically grueling, as physical therapists are constantly on the move; bending squatting, lifting, and so on. So, if the individual isn’t fit and in good health, he or she will be unable to perform essential job functions and spend the day in discomfort. Secondly, patients come to physiotherapists for many disheartening reasons. They may have decreased mobility due to health conditions, injury, or even self-neglect. Many are in pain and have a reduced quality of life due to these things. It’s often the ability to make a difference here that makes physios enjoy their jobs immensely, but this also makes it emotionally and mentally challenging, especially when a patient isn’t making progress or isn’t getting on board with care. For these reasons, the field may not be a good choice for someone who feels personal responsibility for each outcome.
Qualifying for a physical therapy or physiotherapy career varies based on the region.
United States: In order to work as a physical therapist in the US, one must have a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. To be clear, this is not the same thing as becoming a doctor or holding a PhD. Instead, candidates typically pursue a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field, then attend a three-year DPT program at a school approved by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Following this, individuals must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), which is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT), though additional requirements, such as continuing education, will need to be met on a state-by-state basis. It’s also worth noting that the US has nine recognized specialties, such as geriatric, sports, and neurological physical therapy. Using a specialist title requires additional schooling and credentialing. To learn more about the US credentialing process, visit the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) website.
United Kingdom: Generally speaking, those in the UK must attain a (BSc) in physiotherapy, which takes three years as a full-time student. There is also a two-year program for those who already have a degree in a related field. Following this, the individual must register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). One exception to this, however, is Irish professionals. Neither the term “physiotherapist” or “physical therapist” is regulated in the country, so those with schooling and credentials typically opt to become chartered to differentiate themselves from others. Moreover, there are differences between the two fields as well, with physical therapists requiring shorter technical schooling and physios requiring a formal degree program. For further reading about the UK, see the NHS website. For a clearer picture of the state of credentialing in Ireland, view this article in the Irish Times.
Canada: In Canada, new practitioners are required to have a Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT). This is a somewhat recent shift, as a bachelor’s degree was acceptable a few years back and those already in the field were grandfathered in. Licensing is handled at a provincial level, with most requiring professionals to pass the Physiotherapy Competency Examination (PCE) and take continuing education courses to remain certified. To learn more about the Canadian credentialing process, visit the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators website.
Australia: Individuals who wish to practice in Australia must be registered with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia, which accepts a Bachelor or Master of Physiotherapy (or equivalent) from a number of universities. Professionals may choose to advance their educations and specialize in an area, though all are required to partake in continuing education to remain certified to practice. For additional details, visit the Physiotherapy Board of Australia website.
Candidates are often required to participate in a residency or internship program as part of their schooling. This can serve as a gateway to a career or may simply give the professional the opportunity to identify which settings he or she prefers to work in and what type of patients one prefers to care for. Understanding your preferences is the key to a happy and successful career, plus it will pave the way for a more successful interview. Naturally, credentials will be checked and the candidate will be expected to answer technical questions about patient care. Most employers will ask questions to determine whether the candidate has a personality and demeanor suited to the environment as well.
- How to Interview For a Physical Therapy Job
- What to Expect in a Typical Physical Therapy Job Interview
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- Interview Preparation (Physiopedia)
Moving into Physiotherapy/ Physical Therapy from another career
The rigorous coursework involved in becoming a physiotherapist or physical therapist makes it a difficult career to transition into. There are often fast-track options for those already in a healthcare field. Those who are considering making the transition may wish to start as a physio or physical therapy assistant, which often has no regulatory oversight, prior to making the jump. Although working as an assistant won’t qualify someone to become a physio or physical therapist, it will offer practical work experience and may reduce the time spent in school.
Unlike other careers with a standard ladder to climb, physios hold the same title for as long as they’re licensed/ certified and it does not change. The only exception to this is for those who opt to specialize in a particular area.
From day-one, clinical physios are directly involved with patient care. They may have their own office or work in a hospital or clinic, with some even making house calls. They typically work alongside other healthcare professionals as well, ensuring all the patient’s needs are seen to. Care for each patient will be different depending on the nature of the patient’s challenges. Some work with those recovering from injury, illness, or surgery, while others assist those with disabilities, age-related issues, or other conditions. The physio meets with patients and performs an exam to identify which treatments are most likely to help, then devises a care plan that will help the patient reach his or her goals. Professionals typically see their patients on a regular basis, such as once or twice per week, until the individual has recovered mobility and function.
Hours: Approximately 40 per week.
Most physios don’t travel for work, with the exception of those who make house calls. Even still, travel is typically modest and usually limited to one’s own city.
Physio: According to PayScale, physical therapists earn an average of USD $70,000 per year in the United States. In the United Kingdom, the average pay for a physiotherapist is £27,000, whereas salaries are CAD$62,000 and AU$60,000 in Canada and Australia, respectively. It’s worth noting that years of experience has a large impact on pay, with those at the 20-year-mark seeing 20-40% larger paychecks, depending on the region.
Specialist: Being a specialist doesn’t always equate to earning bigger paychecks. For example, PayScale notes that those working in orthopedics and pediatrics earn 1-2% less than the average professional, whereas someone working in geriatrics gets a 10% hike.
Bonuses, profit sharing, and commission can increase take-home pay by more than ten thousand annually.
Why a Physiotherapist/ Physical Therapist moves on
Although most physiotherapists and physical therapists love what they do, burnout is somewhat common. For starters, the requirements to get into the career and the financial investments are climbing. What was once largely unregulated and only required technical training now requires a bachelor’s or master’s degree. This leaves many physios putting in extra hours or taking second jobs to pay off school. As an aside to this, work/ life balance can diminish. Adding to this, healthcare regulations increase time spent documenting and handling charts, which keeps many physios at their desks for hours outside of normal working hours. Keeping patients motivated in a sedentary world is challenging too. Those who face challenges such as this simply change to a new employer or open a private practice. Those who leave can transition into a number of health-related careers.