7+ Year Member
Nov 1, 2011
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I have been interested in PT for many years and keep circling the field because I'm very moved by it the work you do and how you empower lives. I'm also fascinated by neuroscience, anatomy, and physiology, which is why I'm confused that something isn't clicking with a rehab career...

I have shadowed a lot of PTs in various settings and worked as rehab aide for OTs on acute/transitional/rehab units and unfortunately felt like a lot of the work I was assisting with was very repetitive and didn't feel engaged by it, on top of all of the paperwork/charting that it felt like most therapists were doing, and the quotas they had to reach.

I've thought that if I could do a combination of working with people and doing research, that could be a nice balance for me, but unfortunately I don't feel like there are a lot of options for that. While I am very interested in some of the research that's going on in the field, I also don't feel like being a PhD/Principal Investigator is a good fit for me because I feel like you're taken away from actually working with people and are mostly in meetings, writing grants, or publishing. Would really appreciate some perspective. Thank you!
Mar 21, 2020
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  1. Physical Therapist
Everything is what you make of it. I work in outpatient ortho. I am sure others would say that outpatient ortho is repetitive. I do see a lot of patients with the same diagnosis. However, I do not necessarily feel like it is repetitive because I will not give two different patients with the same diagnosis the same exercises to do because there are still some differences/contributing factors even with the same diagnosis. You will have a lot of paperwork regardless of what setting you work in, but there are some ways to make it more manageable (time management, working 1 on 1 with less patients overall a day -- there are some places out there with this). I work at one of these places, and I have only 15 minutes or less paperwork left to complete after my last patient leaves.

I cannot speak much about the research aspect, but researchers always have to conduct their research so I am sure that conducting research involves trial participants. Also, one nice thing about being a physical therapist is that you can pretty much decide how many hours you want to work as a physical therapist. If you decide not to be full-time, this would allow the potential for another job on the side. I am not sure the flexibility with research jobs, but it is something to look into. I have several coworkers that have more than 1 job and are part-time or PRN.

Maybe one thing to consider is a physical therapy sales rep. They travel around a lot though. They go to different clinics and market their physical therapy product to the clinics. Then if a physical therapist at the clinic has a patient that would benefit from that product, the physical therapist contacts the sales rep, and the sales rep arranges for in-person visits with the patient for fittings, questions, ect.) An example could be a sales rep fitting a patient with a dynasplint. The sales rep then continues to follow-up with the patient to see how the product is working for the patient. Sometimes adjustments are made to the product for the patient by the sales rep. The sales rep also gives feedback to the company that makes the product in regards to what the therapists and patients tell the sales rep about the product. This feedback them helps with modifying the product/future research.
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Nov 12, 2019
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  1. Physical Therapy Student
Outpatient ortho is just one field of PT. I agree, as an aide it seemed like it was very reptitive, doing the same exercises and manual therapy techniques however once I completed my full time rotation in outpatient orthopedics I realized it was far from repetitive. Most PTs have a "toolbox" or a set of skills and techniques they like to utitlize however each patient is different and although they may be getting the same techniques, it is applied differently or for different clinical reasoning. It is up to the PT to not become a repetitive robot and give everyone the same 4 exercises. Maybe try asking some PTs why they're doing certain exercises or manual skills on every patient, you'll be able to understand the clinical reasoning and I'm telling you it'll be different for every patient.

Our school has had a few guest speakers who are clinicians as well as researchers. It is a lot of work, but it is doable. You can also consider academia. All of our professors are participating in research and some are also treating in the clinic as well.
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2+ Year Member
Mar 9, 2019
If you feel the work you are doing is repetitive and not engaging, I would think this career is not a good fit for you since you will be bored. I was bored when I was observing PTs because I was not able to actually engage in working with patients myself, but now my days fly by and I love it! For me, it also depends on a setting. I spend a couple of hours on charting and 6 hours on patient care which is a good balance for me. I am not sure if you can try another setting and see what is it like there for you since you said you have been in various settings already.
What about teaching part-time? You will be working with students=working with people if you are in a classroom.
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