What do Physical Therapists do?

Assess, plan, organize, and participate in rehabilitative programs that improve mobility, relieve pain, increase strength, and improve or correct disabling conditions resulting from disease or injury.

  • Perform and document an initial exam, evaluating data to identify problems and determine a diagnosis prior to intervention.
  • Plan, prepare, or carry out individually designed programs of physical treatment to maintain, improve, or restore physical functioning, alleviate pain, or prevent physical dysfunction in patients.
  • Record prognosis, treatment, response, and progress in patient's chart or enter information into computer.
  • Identify and document goals, anticipated progress, and plans for reevaluation.
  • Administer manual exercises, massage, or traction to help relieve pain, increase patient strength, or decrease or prevent deformity or crippling.
  • Evaluate effects of treatment at various stages and adjust treatments to achieve maximum benefit.
  • Test and measure patient's strength, motor development and function, sensory perception, functional capacity, or respiratory or circulatory efficiency and record data.
  • Instruct patient and family in treatment procedures to be continued at home.
  • Confer with the patient, medical practitioners, or appropriate others to plan, implement, or assess the intervention program.
  • Review physician's referral and patient's medical records to help determine diagnosis and physical therapy treatment required.
  • Obtain patients' informed consent to proposed interventions.
  • Discharge patient from physical therapy when goals or projected outcomes have been attained and provide for appropriate follow-up care or referrals.
  • Provide information to the patient about the proposed intervention, its material risks and expected benefits, and any reasonable alternatives.
  • Inform patients when diagnosis reveals findings outside physical therapy and refer to appropriate practitioners.
  • Direct, supervise, assess, and communicate with supportive personnel.
  • Provide educational information about physical therapy or physical therapists, injury prevention, ergonomics, or ways to promote health.
  • Refer clients to community resources or services.
  • Administer treatment involving application of physical agents, using equipment, moist packs, ultraviolet or infrared lamps, or ultrasound machines.
  • Teach physical therapy students or those in other health professions.
  • Evaluate, fit, or adjust prosthetic or orthotic devices or recommend modification to orthotist.
  • Direct group rehabilitation activities.
  • Conduct or support research and apply research findings to practice.
  • Participate in community or community agency activities or help to formulate public policy.
  • Construct, maintain, or repair medical supportive devices.

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