Your formal training is done. Observationals are all in the past. Even the job search is over, thanks to you finding that first job as a physical therapist. Now you are preparing for your first day at work. It’s time for you to put everything you learned in your educational career into real-world practice. Are you ready?
Perhaps you are going into your first physical therapy job fully confident that you know everything there is to know about making your patients well. After all, you learned about the four kinds of physical therapy in school. You even aced most of your exams. Well, be careful not to blink. Your first few weeks on the job are probably going to be more than you bargained for. And it is going to take you months, if not longer, to master the four kinds of physical therapy.
Whether you start your career employed by a private practice or working as a locum tenens therapist, it’s going to take time for you to master your profession. Remember that there is a distinct difference between book learning and real-life application. Only as you treat actual patients and measure the results will you be able to really gauge your success as a therapist.
Manual therapy may be the first kind of physical therapy you learned about in school. As you know, it’s known as bodywork within the profession because you are manually manipulating various parts of the body. You might massage soft tissue or employ gentle movement to relax stiff muscles.
You might also employ mobilization and manipulation during the course of the day. The thing to remember is that each of your patients will respond differently. It will take time for you to measure those responses in order to make adjustments to manual therapy.
You will employ movement therapy by recommending exercises designed to increase strength, flexibility, endurance, and coordination. Of course, you will have to strategically choose exercises for each patient depending on need. What works in one case may be completely inappropriate for another. You will even find that many of your patients require evolving exercise programs as their conditions change.
The next form of therapy is known as both instruction and educational therapy. This is the component that involves you teaching your patients how to handle daily tasks without making things worse. To some degree, this part of physical therapy is similar to occupational therapy. The thing is that you might have to learn practical ways to teach your patients things you did not learn in school. For example, you may have to actually spend time walking on crutches to fully understand how to teach it to a patient.
Finally, there are going to be times throughout your career when specialized therapy is necessary. Such therapies are often designed on-the-go, utilizing whatever resources are available at the time. This may be the hardest part of physical therapy to master. Why? Because it will require you to combine the knowledge you learned in school, the skill sets you have developed since then, and your own innate creativity to come up with appropriate solutions.
You have worked extremely hard to become a physical therapist. Now that you are ready to start your first job, go do it with all the passion and zeal you can muster. Above all, don’t ever stop learning. Once you master the four kinds of physical therapy you learned about in school, there will be other things to master as well. You can always get better at what you do.