Tell me about PT
August 12, 2006 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I've thought about physical therapy as a potential profession. What should I know about the field, and what kind of path would I have to take when I have a degree in the arts and have been working a completely unrelated field?

I discovered I love helping people feel better physically, and have recently been certified as a yoga instructor. Co-workers (at my corporate desk job) and friends with aches and pains have sought my advice on things they can do to allieviate pains.

So those that have knowledge of the field, is it a worthwhile rewarding profession? What are the ugly sides? What are the work experiences PT programs look for? How does one transition into the field from something completely different?
posted by delladlux to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not claiming knowledge of the field directly but the nursing school I go to has a PA program. I would look at websites of other programs to get an idea of what pre-req's you'll need to take and what is expected of perspective candidates. You could take pre-reqs part-time now as you learn more about getting into the field.

Look at a local hospital and see if they have volunteer or job opportunities in the physical therapy departments so you can be around others that have made this choice and see what they're doing. The PT depts at the hospitals where I've had clinicals and the one I work at have some really fun people.

The field of healthcare could use people with diverse backgrounds such as yourself. Your background in the arts is a benefit. It's been my experience that diverse knowledge helps one connect to patients and helps encourage a climate of healing. If you have an interests in learning and a caring disposition, you are wanted and needed. Good luck!
posted by dog food sugar at 3:48 PM on August 12, 2006

I'm a speech therapist and I've worked with physical therapists in my job. I think the biggest thing you should prepare yourself for is the fact that right now you have motivated people seeking out your help. At a nursing facility or hospital you'll have motivated patients, but also unmotivated patients, patients with dementia, and others who just don't want your help even though they need it. One OT that I know said that her job is basically to get hit, yelled at, and spit on.

I've never met a bitter PT. The ones I've met love their jobs. Just be prepared for the cranky patients ;-)
posted by christinetheslp at 4:28 PM on August 12, 2006

I think PT is a very rewarding career choice! I worked in a PT office for the better part of a year recently, and the PTs all seemed to enjoy their jobs. I believe PT is a fairly rigorous degree, and you may not be able to transfer many of your credits into the program if you elect to study in the profession. Most of the programs i've heard about have been at least 5 years.

If you do decide to go for this, you might think about areas you'd like to specialize in. I think you can concentrate on everything from certain types of populations (IE sports PT or the elderly) to kinds of afflictions. One of the PTs I worked for specialized in vestibular diagnoses. Additionally, think about the kind of work setting you want to be in. If you work for large healthcare corporations, there may be pressures you didn't bargain for. Some places look for patient quotes, etc, which can be quite detrimental to the care you give your patients. Spend some time researching the best area for you.

Finally, you may consider getting a 2 year certification as a PTA. This way, you can spend time working in the field hands on without investing the full degree period in the profession. You can certainly move on from PTA to PT if you decide it's right for you. A lot of PTAs work and finish their PT degrees at the same time. Good luck!
posted by theantikitty at 6:05 PM on August 12, 2006

I was a kinesiology major as an undergrad (within the physical education program, but we didn't take the education courses). Many of the kines graduates of my school went on to medical school or physical therapy school.

Kinesiology is the study of human movement. Classes covered physiology, anatomy, biology, chemistry (incl. organic) and physics, plus we had to take other electives, like athletic training. And this was in *preparation* for PT school.

You will definitely need to get some science credits under your belt. Back then (20 years), PT school was rather competitive, almost on a par with medical school when you considered the number of open spots vs. the number of applicants. Only the top candidates were accepted, and having some experience (internship, working as a student trainer, etc.) was essential.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:43 PM on August 12, 2006

Physical therapy school is EXTREMELY competitive--especially if you are a female.
You will need to bone up on lots of science and calculus based math. You should probably go back to school and get a BS in a life science or physiology.
PT school involves internships and they are not available in every state.
posted by FergieBelle at 9:34 AM on August 13, 2006

Don't be discouraged to hear about the competitive aspect of a field. I also come from an art background and nursing school has a similar competitive quality. But that does not mean people from the arts cannot cut it.

I had a BFA in photography and film when I decided to go to nursing school. I had to take a lot of science at the local community college. I found it scary at first but also very stimulating. It's a different method of study. More factual in those early level sciences - your critical analytical thinking that you got in art school will help you.

I seriously doubt you have to go back and get a science degree. Talk to admitting for the programs near you. See how you do in the pre-reqs. Look into a PT Assistant program like theantikitty suggested. Get a job or volunteer at a hospital. Good luck!
posted by dog food sugar at 6:44 AM on August 15, 2006

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