If I could do it all over again, would I choose to become a physical therapist
The short answer: yes. But I would add a few caveats as I highlight in the video below. Besides keeping my physical therapy debt to income ratio under 1:1, I would have encouraged my younger self to consider home health therapy earlier and to even try travel therapy.
Here are the top 10 reasons why I would choose to be a physical therapist again.
1. We are Movement Experts
It’s absolutely fascinating to learn about the human body and to become an expert when it comes to the muscles, bones, joints and nerves of the human body.
Yes, anatomy and physiology were one of the hardest classes in PT school. But they were also the most fascinating classes. It’s amazing to think about the relationship of all the body systems in terms of how we move and how that impacts our lives.
Our ability to help people restore their movement to resolve pain or discomfort is one of the most fulfilling parts of our job.
2. Physical Therapists Are Active
Our jobs as PTs can actually be pretty tiring, but in a good way. As a PT, we are on our feet at least 75% of the day. The other 25%, we’re sitting behind a computer typing our notes, but most of the time we’re actually working with patients. I enjoy being active and end up doing a lot of the exercises with my patients, which is probably why I end up tired after a long day!
The workouts I do with our patients may not look exactly like the exercise routines I do at the gym, but it’s still nice to be active during the day.
3. Job Hour Flexibility
In most PT clinics, the hours of operation can range from 7AM to 8PM. Fortunately, for PTs this means you may have the option to work a shift that’s a little different than the typical 9 to 5. For some, it’s a great option to go into work from 10 to 8 while others prefer an early shift like a 7-3 so they can manage family life or even run errands in the afternoon.
Personally, I enjoyed working 4 ten hour days during my first job as a PT.
Working 10 hours as a PT is tiring, but I loved having a long weekend every week. It’s one of the reasons why I was able to focus on creating articles and videos for PTProgress!
4. Ability to Work Part-Time
For a lot of people this is such a huge benefit of being a PT because you can work with your clinic to cut back hours or to go down to a part time basis if you need more time to manage things outside of the clinic.
Some PTs like the variability in their work, so they choose to work part time in an outpatient clinic 2 days a week and then pick up 3 to 4 days as a home health physical therapists. Typically a home health PT will earn about 30% more than an outpatient therapist, so the pay differential is significant for those who want to eliminate their student loans quickly!
5. Variation in Patients
Your patient schedule will change pretty much on a weekly basis as new patients start therapy and as you discharge patients from PT. Not one day is the exact same because being a PT involves working with people with different diagnosis. I may see 3 people with back pain before lunch and then someone with a shoulder replacement or even a knee replacement followed by a 3 year old! The variation makes every day feel different and challenging in a good way.
6. Autonomy in Practice
I really enjoy the autonomy I have as a clinician to guide the treatment for my patients and to direct where we go with each treatment. Our goal is to continue making progress with our patients and our patients rely on our expertise to lead the way! As a PT, it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re progressing our patients correctly and to monitor for red flags or signs that other healthcare professionals may need to be involved.
7 Creativity in Patient Education
Physical Therapy is a career where patient education is one of the most important elements of our daily interactions with people. We are educators, and our patients – they’re our students. They all learn differently, so it gives us the opportunity to be creative in our approach to teach people in a lot of different ways. I enjoy the challenge of teaching others and explaining difficult concepts in a way that is easier to understand, which is why I love this aspect of my work.
8. Six Figure Salary Potential
While the average PT salary is in the mid $80,000 range (and about $68,000 for new grads), there are opportunities to earn well over six figures as a PT. Jobs in home health and as a contract or travel PT can lead to opportunities that pay $50/ hour or more. These are great opportunities for PTs who may be trying to eliminate high student loans quickly.
Even as a new grad, you can work as a travel PT (through an agency like MedTravelers) working short term contracts at clinics throughout the county.
9 We Get to Help People
There’s nothing more fulfilling in my work as a PT than hearing a heartfelt thank you from a patient who is able to walk with less pain. Or someone who never thought they’d walk again after an amputation but is taking laps around the clinic. I always try to pass that credit to my patients because they’re putting in the work. But it’s really a great feeling to know you’re making a difference in their life through the work you do with them every week.
10 Opportunities are Endless
I think the opportunities for physical therapists are endless both from a patient-treatment perspective and also a career-development perspective.
For example, advancements in technology have opened new ways for therapists to interact with their patients and to guide and track treatment through online portals like MedBridge. Our ability to reach people online and to share our expertise through social media channels has opened the door for even more ways to impact people through our work as PTs.