Duties and responsibilities
A pediatric physical therapist is a physical therapist who focuses on helping children from birth to age 18. They treat problems like injuries, pre-existing conditions, and problems caused by illnesses or diseases. Their typical duties and responsibilities include:
- Interviewing children and their family members and using physical examinations to diagnose the source of children’s movement difficulties
- Creating individualized treatment plans
- Outlining treatment goals and methods to be used
- Helping children to learn to move their bodies correctly to make their movements less painful,
- Assessing patients and monitoring their progress
- Using techniques like functional training and exercise, medication, diet changes, and specialized equipment that is designed to treat and alleviate pain
- Coordinating a child’s care with other healthcare professionals
- Teaching children and their families about safety and home exercises.
Physical therapists will need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). To get accepted onto this program, you will need a bachelor’s degree and a prerequisite courses, such as anatomy, biology, chemistry, physics, and physiology.
After graduating, physical therapists may apply to a clinical residency program after graduation. Residencies typically last about 1 year and provide additional training and experience in specialty areas of care. Physical therapists who have completed a residency program may choose to specialize further by participating in a fellowship in an advanced clinical area. The American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education has directories of physical therapist residency and fellowship programs. After gaining work experience, some physical therapists can become a board-certified specialist in pediatric physical therapy.
Skills and relevant work experience
As well as having the physical stamina to be on their feet all day, pediatric physical therapists need skills such as:
- Problem solving skills, as pediatric physical therapists will have to help children solve the problems. They will also have to overcome issues with treatment programmes
- Patience, as working with children can be a slow and frustrating
- Compassion and empathy, as working with children requires a deep understanding of their needs and concerns
- Communication skills, as pediatric physical therapists will need to communicate their ideas to patients and keep written documents up to date
Pediatric physical therapists tend to work full time. However, there are part time opportunities available. They may also have to work nights or weekends to accommodate to their patients schedule.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for physical therapists was $89,440 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $62,120 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $124,740. Pediatric physical therapists can expect to earn within this range.
There is great career outlook for pediatric physical therapists, offering lots of job opportunities and security. Furthermore, pediatric physical therapists can progress to have more responsibility, such as managing a team of other therapists. Alternatively, they may become self-employed or start up their own practice.