A career in physical therapy is not necessarily a bad thing. It is one of the few careers that are still in demand today and getting in is not that impossible although it is difficult since it does require a lot of education and testing before you can even get a license. That only makes sense since you will be dealing with the health of people so knowing what to do and what needs to be done is paramount.
Education and licenses aside, physical therapy requires more than that. It also requires something from you that can really help boost your career and make you an effective therapist. That means that before you think about becoming a physical therapist ask yourself if it is the right career path for you.
Since we already mentioned education let’s start with that. Basically, are you ok with taking an extra 2 to 3 years after getting your bachelor’s to get either a Master’s or a Doctor in Physical Therapy degree – and that’s just the minimum.These upper level graduate degrees are required by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) so that you can take the National Physical Therapy Examination. Speaking of which are you ready to take what is basically the equivalent of a Bar or Board exam? This is no joke since this will determine whether or not you can even begin to practice or not.
Then there’s your personal work and personality ethics. You will be dealing with people and some of them will be walking in from the street. If you have problems dealing with complete strangers then you may want to reconsider.
You will be dealing with a lot of people during your career so you need to be able to deal with them and deal with them effectively. This means that for starters you need like helping others. This is what you’re doing – helping people who have suffered from an injury, illness or surgery lessen their physical pain and get their range of motion back that resulted from said injury, illness or surgery.
This means you should be ok with close physical proximity with people. Let’s face it – you will be doing hands on therapy with these people so if you think close contact with people is not your thing then you may have a problem here.
Good listening and understanding skills are also important along with the ability to diagnose things. This is almost a necessary skill because you will be evaluating your patients before beginning any rehabilitation program. This is so you have an idea of what’s wrong, can focus on it and create a program that will deal with the problem without undue burden to the patient.
At the same time you need to be able to “read” people. Most people are not good in conveying things verbally and they may say one thing yet their body language says another. You need to be able to read them so you know if they are hiding something like feeling pain when they do any of your exercises. Bearing it for the sake of recovery is admirable but foolish because the pain may be an indication that something is wrong so you, as the physical therapist, need to know if they are simply bearing it for your sake. This way you can talk it over with the patient and redo the program to make things easy.
Deborah Koval is a physical therapist to count on.