Looking at Physical Therapy Work Environments

by Howard Gerber on August 16, 2010

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As a physical therapist, you have a variety of work environments from which to choose. If you want a traditional office setting, that is certainly one possibility, as about 60 percent of all physical therapist jobs are located in either the offices of a health practitioner or within a hospital. However, if you would rather work with a specific demographic or if you want to work outside of the box, that is also possible.

As previously mentioned, the most abundant job opportunities are those found in hospitals and doctor’s offices. In a hospital environment, you will be helping a variety of individuals with various conditions. Anyone who enters the hospital and has a need for physical therapy will be sent to you. One patient may be a stroke victim learning to walk again, and another might be an athlete who needs to regain the full range of motion in his throwing arm. Working in a hospital ensures you will never become bored because the types of patients will constantly be changing. Working in a doctor’s office is similar in that the types of injuries will vary, but they will be limited by the types of injuries the doctor specializes in. For example, if you are in the office of a doctor specializing in sports medicine, most of your patients will be athletes. If you work with a surgeon who specializes in knee repair or replacement, you will almost exclusively be working with knees. Which is more appealing to you? Working with a variety of patients and injuries or becoming an expert in a particular area?

What about those out of the box jobs? Well, you could work for a home health care company where you would be sent to each patient’s home. This would allow you to be constantly on the move, interact with new people, and minimize your hours inside one office. This is perfect for those who are happier when they are constantly doing new things in new places. If you want to focus on geriatric rehabilitation, you could work in a nursing home and help those patients retain or regain mobility. Perhaps you like children. You could contract with a school district or university to take care of the students on campus. With so many different types of injuries and patient demographics, it is possible to find both the environment and clientele that are just right for you, but you may have to travel outside of your immediate area. If you aren’t sure exactly which is right for you, becoming a traveling physical therapist would expose you to a variety of environments and allow you to determine which you prefer.

What is your ideal PT work environment? Do you want to work in a doctor’s office, a hospital, a residential facility, visit patients in their home, or work in a facility dedicated only to rehabilitation? If you are already working as a physical therapist, is the environment you are in the one you thought you would be in? How do you like it?

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