Licensed physical therapists are healthcare professionals who examine, evaluate and provide physical intervention necessary to improve the mobility, ease and functional ability of the human body after an injury, illness or trauma has been inflicted on it. As such, physiotherapists can alleviate pain, improve physical function, and enhance quality of life for people of all ages and backgrounds. These professionals are also engaged in research and development, education and consultation, and administration in their field.
Obviously, physical therapists are specialists in the medical field equipped with the appropriate education, training and skills set. Here are a few of the most important facts regarding how to become a licensed physical therapist in your state.
Aspiring physical therapists should acquire a relevant bachelor’s degree for admission into a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, a post-graduate program that usually lasts for 3 years. The undergraduate degree should include prerequisites including but not limited to courses in anatomy, physiology, chemistry and biology. Individuals who want to enroll in a DPT program should check for the accreditation status of the physical therapy schools before enrolling in one of these establishments.
The courses in a DPT program include anatomy, physiology, neuroscience, biomechanics, physiology and pharmacology. To say that the classes are competitive is an understatement.
Near the end of the DPT program, students are required to undergo clinical internships. Doctoral interns are exposed to various clinical situations in the various sub-specialties of their chosen profession (i.e., orthopedics and pediatrics) for a certain period, say, a month in each sub-specialty. These clinical internships are designed to provide actual experience in the profession and to assist in choosing a sub-specialty for the aspiring physical therapist.
After graduation from the DPT program, aspiring physical therapists must comply with the state licensing board’s requirements. The specific requirements vary among states so it is important to contact the concerned government agency for clarifications. The most typical licensing requirement, nonetheless, is passing the licensing exam administered by the state board.
Licensed therapists must also engage in continuing education courses to renew their licenses, said renewal of which usually happens every 3 years. Board certification can also be acquired to practice a clinical specialty such as in sports, orthopedics or pediatrics.
New therapists should also complete residency requirements. Residency programs are designed to equip a therapist with more advanced knowledge and actual experience in proper evaluation, diagnosis and intervention of patients’ cases. These programs can last any place from 9 to 36 months with a minimum 1,500 contact hours.
Physical therapists are well-advised to become fellows in a professional organization. Fellowships offered are in the fields of hand therapy, movement science and sports, among others.
Indeed, physical therapists are essential medical professionals in our day. Their jobs make it easier for many individuals to regain their functional ability and, thus, to improve their quality of life.