As a Physical Therapist, I’ve become used to working alongside Occupational Therapists, Rehab Aides and Front Desk Staff. Thanks to my last and current contract, I have gained the experience of working with Nurses, Physicians, Respiratory Therapists, and Surgeons. Thankfully, most of my interactions with other professions have been pleasant. However, I have realized that more times than not, other disciplines don’t realize our (PTs) scope of practice, background, or other little nuances. And if they, medical professionals, aren’t informed…how can we expect the general population to be? This post is meant to provide a little insight (and humor) into the actual role of a Physical Therapist along with a few other fun facts. 😉
“Oh, you’re a Physical Therapist? Can I get a massage! 👀”
As funny as this statement can be, I’m almost always happy to hear it because it gives me a chance to educate. The APTA ( American Physical Therapy Association) defines physical therapy as the “movement experts.” This, unfortunately, does not equate to a Massage Therapist. Massage therapy is a wonderful profession that also manipulates muscles to reduce pain and increase relaxation. However, as movement experts, we critique movement patterns, prescribe various exercises, stretches, and sometimes implement “soft tissue mobilization” techniques in efforts to improve functional mobility.
YES, I HAVE A DEGREE…TWO TO BE EXACT. 😑
I can’t tell you guys how many times I am asked how long it took to get my Physical Therapy “CERTIFICATE!” 😂 Funny, but not funny. Physical Therapists now have to attain a Bachelors Degree and then go on to earn a Doctorate Degree in PT. Every school is different, however each candidate is educated extensively on anatomy and physiology, differential diagnosis, exercise prescription, and orthopedics. There are over 200 physical therapy schools in the US and these programs can take up to 2-3 years to complete. That may sound like a lot of programs, but compared to the number of applicants each year (over 100,000 recorded by PTCAs for the 2017-2018 application cycle 😳), that process is extremely competitive. Earning this degree isn’t easy AT ALL. Give us a little credit.
“YOU SHOULD GO BACK TO SCHOOL TO BECOME A DOCTOR. MAKE A LOT MORE MONEY.”
I’ve heard this in conversation more than once and it’s always a struggle to muscle up a response because…
- I refuse to go back to school.
- . I am a Doctor. 😐
And it’s true, physicians gross close to $180,000 a year depending on specialty. The median salary for Physical Therapists is about $85,000, which can vary by state and setting.
“A PT? How cool, you must work with a lot of athletes.”
Yes, Physical Therapists play a big role in preventing and rehabbing athletes from college to professional sports. However, we can work in many other settings.
Scenario: You’re clumsy (like me) and fall on some stairs. You break your leg and go straight to the ER to have surgery.
Before you leave the hospital, typically you’ll see a Physical Therapist. If medically necessary, you’ll stay a few days and work with the rehab team to restore your strength, balance and independence with walking. After a few days, if you’re still not quite ready to return home due to safety or medical needs, you may be discharged from the hospital to an Inpatient Rehab Hospital. There, you’ll spend at least 3 hours a day participating in therapy . If you’re an older adult, you could also be discharged to a Skilled Nursing Facility. This facility will have the same goals of independence, strength and safety in mind. If you’re lucky enough to leave the hospital a day or two after surgery, you may receive either Home Health or Outpatient physical therapy. Your therapists from these settings will have similar goals in mind: getting you back on your feet!
Breaking a bone is an easy and quick example of how Physical Therapists follow you from injury to wellness. We are literally EVERYWHERE! (Not just on the field or on the court.)
“Hmm…I’ve never worked with a black physical therapist.”
It’s unfortunate that I have heard all of these quotes multiple times, however this one affects me the most. Most recently, I have heard this from a travel nurse and it provoked me to do some research.
During my research, I stumbled across this table below. It was found on the Physical Therapy Centralized Application Service, a platform used by applicants looking to get into PT school. As you can see, African Americans make up less that 4% of the total accepted applicants for the 2017-2018 year.
Although this statistic is staggering, I can confidently say that I foresee this number growing. Through the many platforms of social media, I am constantly connecting with fellow and aspiring Physical Therapists of color who are defying the odds and joining this rewarding career. I created this platform, specifically, to shine a light on Physical Therapy. I remember being in high school and thinking that if I wanted to work in the medical field, being a Nurse or Physician were my only options. Physical Therapy is an option!
The tone of this blog was meant to be comical, but hopefully you learned something. Now I want you to go out & share this knowledge with those closest to you. Then & only then, will medical professionals and common-folk alike will stop referring to me as “nurse.” 🙄 (No shade to the nurses out there, I love you! 😘)
What some things that you’ve heard about Physical Therapy? Leave a comment!