New Niches in Physical Therapy Practice
Megan Malugani / Monster Contributing Writer
From working with ballet dancers to collaborating with veterinarians, many physical therapists (PTs) are carving out a variety of useful yet nontraditional practice niches in response to changing societal needs and demands.
Pamela Duffy, PT, MEd, OCS, who has held several leadership positions in the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), offers insights into six emerging practice areas identified by the APTA.
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PTs play a valuable behind-the-scenes role in the performing arts, providing services to dancers, musicians, figure skaters, gymnasts, circus performers and actors. For performers whose careers depend on healthy bodies, taking extended periods of time off from work is not a realistic option, Duffy says. PTs can be instrumental in facilitating performers’ recovery from injuries, supervising training programs and conducting injury-prevention seminars. Working with performers is “a great public relations activity for physical therapists,” says Duffy, a veteran clinician in private practice in West Des Moines, Iowa, who has provided services to dancers from the Des Moines Ballet.
As the number of obese Americans rises, healthcare professionals from all disciplines are stepping up efforts to combat the problem. PTs are uniquely qualified to join the fight thanks to their experience working with clients suffering from obesity-related injuries or conditions like arthritis, stroke, heart disease and diabetes, Duffy says. Because it is safer for many obese clients, especially those who have never exercised and are at high risk of injury, to be guided in their weight-loss efforts by a PT than by a personal trainer, opportunities for PTs to develop and oversee wellness and exercise programs for obese clients are on the rise.
Physical therapists have been opening practices within health clubs for several years, and the trend has reached all corners of the country. “It’s definitely been a win-win situation for health clubs and for physical therapists,” Duffy says. Health clubs welcome the credibility PTs provide, and patients like the convenience of receiving treatment in a health club. In addition, patients benefit from the opportunity to transition seamlessly from a hands-on PT program to an independent wellness and fitness program, Duffy says.