Working as a physical therapist in a school setting is interesting, fulfilling and at times challenging. School physical therapists guide students and their families through a treatment plan that may be aimed at improving endurance, range of motion, coordination, balance, or strength.
The work of a school-based physical therapist is vital to help children overcome physical issues that may interfere with their social, emotional and academic development. Working as a school PT is not always an easy job. Having certain skills can make it easier to succeed. Consider some of the following useful skills for school-based physical therapists.
Working as a school physical therapist requires you to juggle therapy sessions, IEP meetings, charting, and other administrative responsibilities. Since there are only so many hours in a workday, having good time management skills is essential to stay on track.
Physical therapists work with other members of a team including occupational therapists, school counselors, social workers, teachers, and parents. There will be situations in which the physical therapist works one-on-one with a student, and other scenarios where he/she has to team up with another therapist or clinician during IEP meetings and parent/teacher conferences. Having the ability to work well independently, as well as part of a team, is a necessary skill.
Good communication skills are a must for school-based physical therapists. Not only do you need to work well with your students, but you’ll also be interacting with staff and families. Therapists need to communicate clearly and have good listening skills to be most effective.
Think of yourself as part coach. Physical therapists need to have the ability to motivate students to work hard, persevere, and work through obstacles. There will be days where students won’t want to do anything, so the physical therapist needs to be an innovative cheerleader to encourage their progress in the most effective way possible.
Not all children and families are easy to work with. There will be difficult cases and hard days that make you wonder if you’re doing any good. Therapists who are dedicated will stick with it when moments of self-doubt pop up.
All children are different. Some will work hard while others will prefer not to cooperate. But a good physical therapist has the patience to keep at it and encourage the students they work with.
School physical therapists should have physical stamina since they spend a large part of their workday on their feet. Therapists are involved in repositioning and lifting children. It’s also common for physical therapists to spend a lot of time stooping, kneeling, and crouching as they work with students. Strength and stamina is a must in order to provide services for these children
Problem Solving Skills
Not every student responds the same way to certain techniques and strategies – as we mentioned above, all children are different. Therapists need strong problem-solving skills to push through challenges.
It’s no secret that healthcare workers, such as physical therapists, need to have compassion. School physical therapists work with students who have all types of disabilities, such as injuries due to accidents, or neurological, orthopedic or genetic conditions. Children often have a lot of obstacles to overcome. Therapists should be able to push children to reach their full potential while still maintaining a compassionate attitude.
Not every day as a school physical therapist goes according to plan. Students get cranky, unexpected situations arise, and sometimes you have to go with the flow. Are you someone who can adapt or change gears quickly? If so, you’ll help everyone around you be less stressed.