Physical Therapist, Doctor of Physical Therapy
What part of your job is most satisfying? Most challenging?
The most rewarding part of my job is that I enjoy wound care: both seeing the patients and really getting to know their condition and trying to get at the root of it. We are generally also a smaller community/club of practitioners. When we go to nationwide conferences, it is a lot easier to network with our club due to our smaller size. Generally speaking, standard operating procedure physical therapy care is subjective and one must measure progress based on a patient's report (i.e. “My pain has reduced to a 2/10 and I can sleep through the night without waking”). However, I am able to measure a patient’s progress objectively and quantitatively. We can measure, for example, how a limb has reduced in volume by circumferential measurements or how a wound has decreased in volume with measurements. Having a wound is a very frightening condition and many of the patients we will see have failed treatment with their physician or a home health nurse. It is very rewarding to help these patients who have often times given up hope to heal, and as a result, to significantly improve their quality of life.
What advice would you give someone entering the field?
I would recommend that aspiring physical therapists complete many hours of observation, shadowing, or even working within hospitals or outpatient facilities. One can become a physical therapy tech in college, so that they can see firsthand patient care as well as what happens behind the scenes. It is important to observe physical therapy in different settings. Perhaps even try out different specialties. That’s how I found out about wound care!
In college, complete all the necessary prerequisites for your major. But more importantly, you should do something you are interested in. As an undergrad, because I did mainly plants/entomology science work, I didn’t have any anatomy/physiology courses. It is important to take courses in the latter (which I eventually did take!).
On a word of note, PT school is expensive, so I would apply for research assistantships once you are in school to get money. Some of these programs will forgive the “base” tuition in exchange for the research work that you perform.
PT is not a profession for everybody. You are expected to maintain a vast body of knowledge, strong people skills, strong communication/education skills, and finally, PT can be a physically demanding profession. If your mind and passion is set on it, then give it a shot!