What do you do for a living?
I’m a physical therapist.
How would you describe what you do?
I specialize in pediatrics and work primarily with children with developmental disabilities. I evaluate the child’s motor skills, posture, balance, coordination, movement patterns and flexibility. Based on that evaluation and with the input of parents, teachers and other caregivers, I develop a treatment plan to use exercise, movement experiences and sensory input to improve the identified areas of concern so that the child can better participate in their daily activities.
What does your work entail?
A typical day is scheduled with treatment sessions. I will work with the same children each week so we know each other very well. Documentation and billing is done daily.
What’s a typical work week like?
I work in a variety of settings during the week. As a mother, I have created a flexible schedule around my family’s needs. Prior to parenthood I had a more typical 9-5 or 10-6 schedule. Right now I will see children from birth to 3 years old at their homes that are enrolled in an early intervention program, other children who are private clients that I see at their homes or in the community, students at school, and children in a clinic after school.
How did you get started?
In college I needed to fulfill many pre-requisites in order to apply to graduate school in physical therapy. I then went to graduate school for my Master of Science in Physical Therapy. After graduating and being licensed I then pursued my transitional Doctorate of Physical Therapy while working at my first job.
I highly recommend volunteering in various settings to get a feel for the role of the physical therapist. I initially became interested in occupational therapy after working with children and adults with developmental disabilities in recreational programs, such as camps and Special Olympics. During college I volunteered at a Children’s Hospital where I observed both physical and occupational therapy and decided I wanted to pursue a career in physical therapy.
What do you like about what you do?
I love working with families and children to improve their ability to participate and succeed in their daily lives and their future. I love the creativity, energy, and problem-solving that is required on a daily basis. It is never the same, never dull, and always stimulating.
What do you dislike?
I dislike the paperwork. Depending on the setting I have more or less paperwork to do.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I work as an independent contractor or have my own clients so I am paid by the hour of actual treatment. In the past I had a more traditional salary and was paid a set number of hours per week.
How much money do Physical Therapists make?
How much money did you make starting out as a Physical Therapists?
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to become a physical therapist?
You need a Master’s or Doctorate degree and to pass a licensure exam. You need to be interested in the sciences and comfortable working hands on with people. You need to enjoy interacting with and teaching people on a daily basis.
What is most challenging about what you do?
The biggest challenge working in pediatric physical therapy is dealing with behaviors and coming up with approaches that will work for the child no matter the age, cognition, or interest.
What is most rewarding?
It is extremely rewarding to watch a child take their first steps, whether the child is 1 year old or 4 years old. Sometimes it is a more subtle goal that is just as exciting.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Volunteer in therapy settings and also get involved working with or volunteering with children with disabilities in recreational settings. Learning how to motivate and have fun with children with and without special needs will give any therapist a head start once they enter the field.
How much time off do you get/take?
I typically take off 2 weeks a year. My schedule at the school is the same as the students. Outside the school my schedule is year round.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
People think physical therapy is just for injuries, but pediatric physical therapy is more focused on “habilitation” rather than “rehabilitation.”
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
I would like to open a clinic in the future.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
It is a great profession with a lot of flexibility. Physical therapists will frequently change settings over time from orthopedic clinics to acute care hospitals to schools.