Physical therapy is not only meant for adults and athletes in recovery. Even babies and children may need it. Pediatrics physical therapists play a great role in assisting children with injuries or delays in development. Here are some of the things you need to know about pediatrics physical therapists (pediatric PTs), especially if you are interested in pursuing this career.
What is a pediatric physical therapist?
Pediatric PTs are professionals who assist children who need physical therapy. They usually treat children below the age of eighteen years, that is, newborns to teenagers. These professionals help children who have the following issues:
- Delays in development, for instance, if a child has attained the age of walking and he or she is unable to walk.
- Children who are recovering from sports-related and non-sports-related issues.
- Children who are not able to hit the milestones of their ages.
- Children with muscle imbalances or weaknesses.
- Children with genetic disorders like down syndrome.
- Children with poor motor planning and/or coordination.
- Children with muscle/nerve conditions like cerebral palsy.
Pediatrics PTs usually assist minors in enhancing their range of motion, movement patterns, strength, and flexibility. They aim at helping their patients to move their bodies by guiding them on when and how to do it in the best way possible. They help simplify the daily activities of kids. If a kid is injured, these professionals help him or her to manage pain and improve his or her range of motion.
The role of a pediatric PT includes:
- Reviewing a child’s medical history and any notes or referrals from surgeons, doctors, and other health practitioners.
- Observing children’s movements and functions as they stand or walk to diagnose problems. They also diagnose issues by listening to the concerns of children who are old enough to express themselves.
- Developing individualized plans for their patients by outlining the goals of the patients and the outcomes they expect.
- Reducing the pain their patients are going through by using exercises, hands-on therapy, and stretching maneuvers. They also help enhance mobility and facilitate wellness and health.
- Evaluating and recording the progress of their patients, modifying a care plan, and trying new treatments if need be.
- Educating patients who are old enough and their families about the things to expect from the recovery process and how to cope with the challenges that may arise throughout the treatment process.
How to become a Pediatric PT
All physical therapists are required to complete a degree in Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). All states also require licensing of all physical therapists.
DPT programs usually take a period of 3 years. In order to be admitted for this program, you must have a bachelor’s degree in addition to specific education prerequisites like classes in anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, and biology. Some colleges also admit individuals who have just graduated from college, but they are expected to take a 6- or 7-year program, which allows them to graduate with a bachelor’s degree as well as a DPT. In most programs, applicants are expected to apply through the PTCAS (Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service).
PT programs usually include courses in anatomy, biomechanics, physiology, pharmacology, and neuroscience. As a physical therapy student, you are also expected to complete not less than 30 weeks of clinical work. It is during this period that you acquire supervised experience in areas like orthopedic care and acute care.
You may also choose to apply for a clinical residency program, which takes a year to complete after graduating. This program can provide you with additional experience and training in areas that you have specialized in. After completing the residency program, you can opt to add specialization by undertaking a fellowship in a more advanced clinical area.
Certification and License
After completing the course, passing the exam and gaining work experience, you will receive a certificate. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties is among the boards that offer certifications.
As a physical therapist, you must be licensed regardless of the state you live in. The licensing requirements in different states vary, but in all, you have to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam. Some states also require a PT to undergo a criminal background check and to have passed a law exam to get a license. Continuing education is necessary if you want to keep your license. It is advisable to check the specific licensing requirements for your state with the state board.
Career Outlook & Salary
In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that physical therapists earned between $ 60,390 and $ 123,350 per year. The salary must have increased by now. However, it is good to note that the exact amount one earns varies, depending on specialization, state, years of experience, and level of education.
The employment opportunities in this field are expected to rise. Therefore, the chances of getting employed when you pursue this career are high. However, you have to note that the life of a pediatric PT can be demanding, and if you are planning to pursue a career in this ,field you should be ready to adjust to stress.
Some of the areas you can work in as a pediatric PT include:
- Neonatal intensive care units
- Outpatient treatment centers
- Rehabilitation centers
- In a child’s home
- Disaster settings
- International development areas
A pediatric PT usually has a natural aptitude and desire to work with kids who have special needs and their families. The professionals usually work forty hours per week, including weekends and evenings. However, the work hours vary depending on the setting one works in. For instance, pediatric physical therapists who work in clinics, rehabilitation facilities and hospitals, and other similar settings may work part-time or full time. The hours of those who work in schools are influenced by school hours. Those who offer in-home care have to make adjustments to their schedules to help children when they are at home, which may include weekends and evenings.
Career Pros & Cons
Considering the advantages and disadvantages of being a pediatric PT is important before deciding whether to pursue this career or not. Here are the pros and cons.
- A good salary
- Rise in job opportunities
- Gain knowledge on health and science
- Many places that one can work in
- One can start his or her own practice
- The job is demanding
- You must spend several years in school
- The high cost of college education
- Renewal of license
- Challenges when dealing with patients
In conclusion, being a pediatric PT has its advantages and disadvantages. When deciding whether to become one, it is advisable to consider what comes with it. It is also wise to interact with pediatric PTs that you know so that they can tell you what they think of the job. Note that physical therapists are highly honored for their job. They also feel proud when they make a difference in someone’s life. You can pursue a career in pediatric physical therapy if you will not mind the disadvantages or if, to you, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.