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What it means to be a physical therapist

How PTs are trained to see such a wide range of patients with varying needs



Physical therapists are trained to see such a wide range of patients with varying needs:

What kind of training does a physical therapist receive?

Rounded Rectangle: We have 51 Physical Therapists at Cook Children’sBecoming a physical therapist takes graduate level education. Prospective PTs first earn their bachelor’s degree in a self-selected area while completing prerequisite courses in the various sciences, psychology, and math. They then go on to attend PT school and earn their DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy). DPT programs vary in length from 2 ½ - 3 years of year round education. By the time a PT starts his or her career, he or she will have roughly 7 years of collegiate education behind them. Physical therapists must also pass a national board exam. In the past, a PT degree has been a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree, but the scope of practice has grown tremendously necessitating the move to a doctoral level of education.

What about physical therapy assistants (PTAs)?

Physical therapy assistants work closely with physical therapists to implement treatments and plans of care. PTAs must earn an associate’s degree and also pass a national board exam.

Where do PTs and PTAs work?

You’ll find physical therapists and assistants in a variety of locations. The most common include outpatient clinics, hospitals, and rehab facilities, but you’ll also find us in home health, schools, nursing homes, working closely with professional and collegiate sports teams, and even in places like the emergency department. Physical therapists are also active in research.

What Does Physical Therapy at Cook Children's Look Like?

Cook Children’s consists of six programs within the system that treat different populations within pediatric physical therapy.

  • Home Health
  • Inpatient Hospital
  • Neurodevelopmental Physical Therapy
  • NICU
  • Skilled Inpatient Rehab (TCU/RCU)
  • SPORTS Physical Therapy

Fun Facts about Cook Children’s Physical Therapists:

  • There are multiple therapists who have specialized certifications, take a look and see
  • Orthopedic Certified Specialist:4 Therapists
  • Sports Certified Specialist:5 Therapists
  • Certified Manual Physical Therapist:1 Therapist
  • Pediatric Certified Therapist:2 Therapists
  • Cook Children’s is made up of a unique team of therapists with a variety of specializations that better allows them to utilize family centered care in which the patient, family, and therapist collaboratively work to create a plan of care that meets individual goals for each patient.
  • One on one time is important in each patient’s rehab, which Cook Children’s is able to offer during sessions.
  • Therapists at Cook Children’s display passion with patients and their families to provide the best care possible while making sessions enjoyable.

Physical therapy plays an integral role in treating your child/adolescent whether they get an injury playing their sport, they burn themselves, or born with a developmental delay. You and your child can expect to have an individualized evaluation to assess their needs and create goals together to achieve success in physical therapy. Physical therapy treatments consist of exercises to promote improved functional movement to get them back to sport or play; manual (or hands-on) therapy; assist with ordering equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers or adaptive devices; patient and family education, and communication on how we collaborate as a team with your doctor. Many of our patients struggle with ongoing pain and physical therapy is a great conservative treatment to avoid overuse of pain medications, we invite you to talk with your doctor and #choosePT.

Can physical therapists specialize in one area?

Physical therapists can attain board certified specialization in various areas. These include cardiovascular and pulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, geriatrics, neurology, oncology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, sports medicine, and women’s health. Achieving board certified specialization requires passing a thorough written examination and either the completion of a yearlong residency or proof of at least 2,000 hours of patient care in the chosen field, among other things.

What about additional training?

To maintain their licensure, PTs and PTAs must complete continuing education. Physical therapists may also choose to pursue advanced training in areas such as manual therapy, treatment of certain conditions or certain body parts, performing specialized examinations, working with athletes from a particular sport, and staying up to date with the best ways to manage pain.

The American Physical Therapy Association’s vision is “Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience." Physical therapists are highly educated professionals trained to identify problems with movement and function of the human body. We work to restore and improve normal body motion. We educate and empower our patients and families to be active participants in their recovery process. We also instruct on future injury prevention. We love to see our patients succeed and meet their goals. We love to help them improve their quality of life. It’s no wonder physical therapy is consistently ranked one of the happiest and most rewarding careers. It’s a wide and diverse profession and truly has the ability to transform lives.

Our physical therapists at Cook Children’s are ready to help your child/adolescent achieve their goals. Check out our website on how to get an appointment.

About the author

Melissa Bro, PT, DPT, SCS, is a physical therapist for the Cook Children's SPORTS Rehab program. Our physicians, therapists, nurses and technologists work exclusively with kids and understand the unique needs of a growing athlete's bones, muscles, body and mind. As a part of Cook Children's integrated pediatric health care system, our patients have access to a multitude of pediatric specialty areas with board certified doctors, as well as laboratory services, nutritional consultations and sports medicine counseling.

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Sara Beiler
Enjoyed reading article and at end realized you wrote it. Good job! Interesting especially as I'm involved with another therapist for shoulder.