According to Today’s Physical Therapist: A Comprehensive Review of a 21st Century Health Care Profession prepared by the American Physical Therapy Association in 2011, physical therapists (PT) are healthcare professionals who maintain, restore, and improve movement, activity, and health enabling individuals of all ages to have optimal function and quality of life, while ensuring patient safety and applying evidence to allow for efficient and effective care. Physical therapists are an active part of the healthcare environment and are recognized as vital providers of rehabilitation and habitation. Physical therapists also take an active role in education, consultation, and research. As the profession and role of physical therapists have expanded, the training and school requirements have also evolved to ensure physical therapists are competent to provide physical therapy services.
The profession of physical therapy began in 1917 after World War I and the second polio outbreak to rehabilitate the wounded and retrain muscles affected by polio. The first program established was 3 months long and the graduate was given the title of reconstruction aide. As the need for physical therapy continued to grow with the end of World War II a baccalaureate program was developed. Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s the curriculum continued to expand to meet the demands of more complex patients and the advancement of medical technology. As therapists became more autonomous over the next couple of decades it became clear the schooling requirements needed reflect this change in scope of practice and by the 1990s most physical therapy programs offered a masters of physical therapy degree. As healthcare continues to evolve so does the degree requirements and the majority of new graduates are awarded a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree which typically takes 7 years of schooling to obtain. As of January 1, 2016, the DPT will be the required degree for all entry-level physical therapist education programs.
After graduating with a degree, physical therapists are required to pass a national board examination and receive a state license. The license must be renewed on a regular basis, with a majority of states requiring continuing education or some other continuing competency requirement for renewal. A physical therapist must practice within the scope of physical therapy practice defined by his or her state law governing the licensure and practice of physical therapy.
For more information on physical therapists and their role in the healthcare system please visit the American Physical Therapy Association public education website.
If you feel a physical therapist could help improve your current level of function or quality of life please call us at 719-477-6870 or click here to set up a free 30 minutes consultation with one of our physical therapists at Great Moves Physical Therapy.