Physical therapy is sometimes also known as physiotherapy. It involves evaluating and helping to restore the body to normal function and movement using physical means. It is usually administered by a physiotherapist or his or her assistant. This form of therapy has continued to win acclaim and this is why many people are looking for schools that offer physical therapy. The good news is that there are many colleges with physical therapy programs.
The History of The Physiotherapy Career
The practice of physiotherapy dates to as far back as the period of ancient Greece. In fact, history shows that it started around 460 BC as a method of curing certain diseases. The Greek physicians Hippocrates and Hector are recorded to have used physical therapy during this period to treat some patients. They used massage therapy and hydrotherapy. For massage therapy, they incorporated certain oils while performing massages on the injured body parts to relieve the pain. Hydrotherapy is the use of hot water to treat injured body parts or muscles. However, the practice itself may have been common years before this record.
In 1894, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists was founded in London, England. It was founded by trained and certified nurses who had specialized in physical therapy and the main aim of this organization was to train the members of the general public. It also helped to educate the general public on the importance of physiotherapy as well as how to perform it. This was the first documented organization of physical therapists. After this, a few physical therapy colleges started springing up all over the world and certain universities even offered specialized programs in this form of therapy. For instance, in New Zealand, the University of Otago established the School of Physiotherapy in 1913.
This form of therapy gained popularity during World War I (1914 – 1918). Sometimes on the battlegrounds, soldiers ran out of medical supplies and their doctors and medical aides had to improvise means with which to treat soldiers who had incurred minor injuries such as ankle twists. Many of the medical personnel during this time were nurses who had specialized in physical therapy. They were popularly known as ‘reconstruction aides’.
The year 1921 is probably one of the most important years in the history of physiotherapy. It was in this year that the American Women’s Physical Therapeutic Association, AWPTA (later renamed American Physical Therapy Association, APTA) was founded. It was founded by the first reconstruction aide, Mary McMillan. For her immense contribution to the field of physiotherapy, she became known as ‘The Mother of Physical Therapy’ to the general public. It was also during this year that the first research paper on physical therapy was published in the United States.
Physiotherapists have also made a great contribution in the field of vaccination. In 1956, the American Physical Therapy Association was outstanding in its efforts of popularizing the polio vaccine that was invented by Dr. Jonas Salk.
Physical therapy was further popularized by the invention of the computer in the 1980s and the internet in the 1990s. Due to this, many people know how to perform some basic procedures even though they may not have attended any physical therapy school.
A Physical therapist’s career is very varied and can provide a good balance of challenge and reward. There are many sub-fields available and so there is a good chance that you will find one that you will suit your strengths and abilities.
The Duties of a Physical Therapist
The main goal of physical therapy is to treat minor physical injuries with the main aim of preventing them from becoming permanent or chronic. A physical therapist’s job description is varied and it is said their work is not done until the patient’s injured part regains its maximum functionality or condition is restored to how it was before the injury was sustained.
The first thing that a physical therapist does when diagnosing a patient is to study that patient’s medical history. The therapist needs to know what caused the injury, what was the patient doing until he or she sustained the injury, whether the patient has received any form of treatment for the injury and how long he or she has stayed with the injury.
A physical therapist should also examine such things as the patient’s posture, balance, control and motor function. It is possible that the injury was caused by some factors that are not directly linked to that body part. For instance, improper balance by the patient could be as a result of a brain disorder or injury to the spinal cord. In this case, the therapist would be doing the wrong thing if he or she insisted on physical therapy. Therefore, if the therapist can establish the cause of the injury quickly, he or she will be in a position to identify the best way to deal with the injury.
In some situations, a physical therapist’s work may include using electrical stimulation, cold compresses, hot packs and ultrasonography all in an effort to ease the patient’s pain and help them on the track to recovery as quickly as possible. In some cases, the physical therapist may also be forced to turn into a masseuse in order to ease the pain that the patient may be experiencing in the muscles. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that a physical therapist should know how to perform various massage procedures.
Many times, a patient is assigned to or attached to a single physical therapist. It is therefore the work of the therapist to keep track of the patient’s medical records and progress. If there is positive progress, then the therapist should keep doing what he or she has been doing throughout. If no progress is seen, then the therapist should seek medical advice from other doctors or refer the patient to another therapist or medical institution. Another important duty that a physical therapist must carry out is regular checkups on his or her patient. This may including making house calls as the patient will not always stay at the hospital. In other situations, the physiotherapist may be forced to use alternative means to speed up the patient’s recovery such as a more intense physical therapy session when there have been no noticeable improvements.
Requirements for a Physical Therapy Degree
In the early days, most therapists gained expertise on the work after on the job training. This means that there was no formal training for physical therapists. This practice is still common in many countries, especially in developing countries. In essence, the practice is transferred from one generation to another. However, after the University of Otago in New Zealand established the first School of Physiotherapy, many other institutions of higher learning followed suit. There are now many leading pt schools and universities that offer courses in Physical Therapy worldwide. When these institutions started offering physical therapy courses, only undergraduate degree programs were available. However, nowadays, master’s degrees as well as PhD degrees are also offered in accredited physical therapy schools. There are four therapist degrees that a person can choose from.
Transitional Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy
The first requirement for this degree program is to have an undergraduate degree in physiotherapy. This degree program usually takes about two years to complete. The subjects taught under this degree program include geriatrics, pediatrics, neurology, orthopedics, pulmonary testing and management, orthotics, and prosthetics. In some situations, as a student under this degree program, you may be required to do a research project in order to complete the course.
Direct Entry Master’s in Physical Therapy
This is mainly meant for people who have graduated from a different field of study and are interested in earning a master’s degree in physical therapy. Even though this course takes two years just like the master’s degree in physical therapy, the curriculum is slightly different. The first year of this degree course involves exposing the student to the basic aspects of physical therapy. In the second year of study, the student is attached to a hospital or a clinic for internship in order to gain practical experience in physical therapy.
Transitional Doctorate in Physiotherapy
After graduating with a master’s degree in physical therapy, the next stop is the PhD. Like in many other fields, additional instruction in physical therapy is offered under this doctorate program.
Direct Entry Doctorate in Physiotherapy
If you have a master’s degree in another field and are interested in earning a PhD in the same field, you can register for this program. However, your certification will come only after three years.
There are some areas of specialization that you will have to opt for at some point in your study. Under geriatrics, you will be dealing with senior citizens who could be suffering from diseases like hip and joint replacement and arthritis. On the other hand, there is also pediatrics where you specialize in children only. Another sub field of physiotherapy that you may be interested in specializing in is orthopedics.
The Physical therapist’s Salary Expectations
According to the United States Department of Labor, by the time of print, a physiotherapist’s annual salary is $74,410. This is significantly higher than the average salary range for many other professions in the United States.
However, as in many other fields, a physiotherapist’s salary depends on several factors. These include, but are not limited to – the level of experience, the type of employer for which one works, the state in which one works and the education level of the physiotherapist.
A therapist fresh from college with absolutely no experience in the field should expect to earn between $50,900 and $60,700. This will be in the first year of work. After gaining a year’s or four years’ experience, this range can go up to $52,600 and $64,100. 5 to 9 years’ experience can earn you anywhere between $59,100 and $72,500. When you have worked in the field of physiotherapy for between ten to nineteen years, you should expect to earn anything between $62,800 and $78,000. With more than twenty years’ experience in physiotherapy, you can earn as high an annual salary as $80,900.
When working for a company, the salary range for a physiotherapist is usually between $56,600 and $72,300. For a not for profit organization, this salary is between $53,900 and $69,800. If you decide to put up your own firm and become self employed, you will generally earn an annual salary in the range of $57,700 and $89,000. When working for the state or the local government, you will earn between $58,900 and $74,600. You can also choose to work for a university or a college. The average annual salary for a physiotherapist who works for such an educational institution is between $49,200 and $68,100. If you work for a sports team, you should earn anything between $63,000 and $73,500. The average annual salary for physical therapists who work for a private firm is between $54,600 and $69,000. When working for a hospital, you should expect anything from $52,800 to $67,500. If you get employed by the federal government, your average annual salary will be from $52,800 to $67,500. Some physiotherapists are not permanently employed. They only work on contract basis. For such people, the average salary ranges from $51,700 to $77,500 per year.
The salary for a physiotherapist is not the same in all states. Some states pay their physiotherapists better than other states. In Texas, the salary ranges from $54,600 to $72,200. In California, the salary range is slightly higher with a range of $59,900 to $79,900. In New York, physical therapists are paid an average of $52,900 to $67,400. In the state of Illinois, the salary range for physiotherapists is $58,600 to $72,400.
Your physical therapy education goes a long way in determining how much you earn as a physiotherapist. If you are qualified as a bachelor of science in physical therapy, you will earn anything from $52,500 to $65,900. With a master of science in physiotherapy, your average salary is between $55,100 and $70,200. With a PhD, you can earn from $51,100 to $92,600.