Physical Therapists Get New Opportunities and Responsibilities in 2015

Physical Therapists Get New Opportunities and Responsibilities in 2015

If helping people who are injured or sick move better and hurt less sounds like a great career, then physical therapy may be just your ticket to professional fulfillment. You’re attracted to healthcare because you’re a “people person,” so you may find there’s nothing more rewarding than watching a patient improve right before your eyes—thanks to your expert help.

Citing 2012 numbers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics rates median pay for physical therapists or PTs just under $90,000 a year or $40.00 an hour. Jobs are projected to grow at 36 percent through the year 2022, significantly above the national average, partially because the baby boomer population will demand so many services. Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.

Celebrating direct access

At the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), the year 2015 looks to be “a very positive year of transition for the profession,” says Justin Moore, PT, DPT and the organization’s chief public affairs officer. “Physical therapists have always been recognized healthcare providers who provide great value to consumers, and they continue to be an integral part of the healthcare system.”

Now PTs are taking on new roles and responsibilities, not uncommon for healthcare professionals under healthcare reform, Moore says. “We like to think of this transition as ‘the right provider for the right patient at the right time.’”

Physical therapists and many consumers are delighted that as of Jan. 1, 2015, state law generally allows patients to seek evaluation and treatment from a licensed PT without a prescription or referral from a physician. “This achievement heralds the accomplishment of a 35-year objective,” says Moore.

APTA says some states still have arbitrary and unnecessary restrictions in the form of time and visit limits, previous diagnosis requirements, limited patient populations, or requiring a referral for certain types of treatment. The organization says PTs can do so much more than their name implies, including recognizing health problems that may need a referral, and in the new healthcare environment, playing even more prominent roles as they interface with multidisciplinary healthcare teams.

“As we innovate and demonstrate our value, more healthcare practitioners and consumers are seeking us out,” says Moore. “Previously, PTs were seen as more of an ‘extension’ in the system, but now we’re seeing PTs work in different settings. This is happening, not only at the clinical level, but at population health levels and in rehabilitation, health and wellness. We’re also working in chronic care management and in emergency rooms.”

Moving up the career ladder

According to APTA, professional or entry-level PT education programs in the United States only offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree to new students. You must be in a CAPTE- accredited physical therapist education program and pass a state licensure exam. Then -- although it’s not required -- you can become board certified in:

  • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
  • Clinical Electrophysiology
  • Geriatrics
  • Neurology
  • Orthopaedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Sports Physical Therapy
  • Women's Health

You’ll become a member of a professional community that’s passionate about helping clients restore themselves to the highest possible levels of functioning. Meet some of these PTs now, who are sure to make you think more than twice about choosing a career in physical therapy.

Why they love this job

  • "Physical Therapists have one of the best jobs out there,” says Karena Wu of ActiveCare Physical Therapy in New York City. “We fulfill goals. We return clients to a prior level of living, oftentimes with increased quality of living and awareness. We love to touch and feel so our clients get the healing benefits of great hands-on therapy. We know how to evaluate and treat many conditions and we work one-on-one with clients to restore health, mobility, strength and stability. We are kings and queens of the musculoskeletal system.”
  • “Physical therapy is a conservative and effective intervention that maximizes a person’s potential for pain-free functional independence,” says Eileen Kupfer-Askin, PT, DPT at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore’s (Md.) neurological rehabilitation unit. “I have repeatedly achieved that goal for those previously told the only option was surgery. I’m able to get my patients back on their feet again, I’m viewed as an angel on earth, and I’m walking and practicing so much more than a profession—forever more a passion.”
  • “Physical therapists are experts in human movement,” says Kaylie A. Smith PT, DP in Portland, Ore. “As such we must be able to critically analyze movement while formulating a general ‘overview’ of the individual, understanding barriers within their home environment, and prescribing meaningful exercises that are also functional for the patient’s unique situation. Whenever I meet students or volunteers considering a career in PT, I encourage them because of the real differences they can make in their patients’ daily lives.”
  • “I’m a PT from Brazil who’s just moved here to pursue a PhD degree in the field,” says Magno Formiga, PT at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “Our profession is dynamic, with widespread clinical applications. We can work in different settings from private offices, clinics and hospitals, to nursing homes and even in the academic world. Many job opportunities exist for PTs who are licensed and specialized. Moreover, the demand for PTs should continue to rise due to growth in numbers of people with disabilities or limited function, and also because of widespread interest in health promotion.”
  • “I have been a physical therapist for 20 years and have been able to work in many different practice settings, which makes for a very interesting career,” says Renee Cordrey, PT, PhD(c), MSPT, MPH and CWS. She’s a wound care specialist and PT at Genesis Rehabilitation Services and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “My real passion is wound care. In this particular practice area, I enjoy the team approach, tackling the complexity of the problem, and the fact that this is a rapidly advancing field. Because wounds take a long time to heal I get to develop great relationships with my patients as I travel along with them during their healing journey.”

As APTA explains, “Physical therapists are experts in improving mobility and motion, and pain-free movement is crucial to your quality of daily life, your ability to earn a living, your ability to pursue your favorite leisure activities, and so much more.”

Being a PT will never go out of style. With so many exciting changes occurring in this profession, maybe it’s time to choose physical therapy as your way to make a real difference in your own life—as well as in others’.

Don't forget to check out openings on Monster to find Physical Therapist jobs in your area.