A Day in the Life of...a Physical Therapist
In a typical day, Debby Compton might see patients from the age of 2 to 102. Her duties related to each patient can vary as greatly as the individuals themselves.
Compton is a physical therapist and the director of rehabilitation services for Van Wert County Hospital & Therapy Solutions, which is owned by the hospital and Vancrest Health Care Centers.
In one day, Compton might help a child with motor development, teach an adult to walk with crutches following an accident and assist an elderly person in getting back to the point of walking following a hip or knee replacement – and that would be just 3 patients. Compton generally sees around 10 people every day who need physical therapy.
“I have a set schedule of where I’m supposed to be and I have a few meetings that are at certain times every week, but my day is different every day,” Compton commented.
Compton generally starts her day at 8 a.m. For the next four hours, she typically sees at least four patients, spending about an hour with each. In between, she must also document the patient’s treatment – including things like what exercises they completed, pain levels and treatment goals.
More on Physical Therapists
Salary: $46,510 - $94,810
Min. Education: Master's
Related Careers: Occupational Therapist, Social Worker
Some of the common reasons outpatients need physical therapy are shoulder or back problems, the need to work on walking more independently, or recovery from a sports or work injury. Such injuries could be torn rotator cuffs or ACL’s, a broken ankle or a dislocated elbow.
“We’re working on getting them back to their sport or job quickly, but safely,” said Compton.
Sometimes, Compton sees patients for neurological reasons, like if they had a stroke or head injury.
Physical therapists use many exercises and tools to improve a patient’s range of motion, strength, endurance, balance, coordination and motor function. A patient might be “prescribed” general exercises using their own body weight, latex bands (or Thera-bands), cuff weights, dumbbell weights, Swiss (commonly known as stability) balls, “peanut” balls, a treadmill, a stationary bicycle and/or a stair stepper.
“We do a lot of exercise with your own body and Thera-bands, because we can send bands home with people,” said Compton. “We always have people do things at home because, pretty much with this type of stuff, if you don’t do it everyday, you’re not going to get better.”
Even though a patient may not recognize why they have to be able to lift their leg straight up in the air 10 times at first, the seemingly simple exercise can be very important.