physical therapist challenges

Biggest Challenges Faced by Physical Therapists

Let’s take a brief look at a few of the most common challenges faced by physical therapists today.

Throughout National Physical Therapy Month we have used this space to highlight the physical therapy profession and the incredible work being done by selfless practitioners around the country.  As with any career, the physical therapy practice is not without its challenges and pitfalls.  Let’s take a brief look at a few of the most common challenges faced by physical therapists today.

Search Open JobsBiggest Challenges Faced by Physical Therapists

  • Educational Costs: Physical Therapists are not alone in this challenge, yet it is important to note that young PTs are finishing a minimum of six years of college with burdensome student loans from the high costs of education.  Beginning any career under a mountain of debt adds a layer of stress to those charged with patient care.
  • Stress: Another challenge that is not unique to PTs, but is prevalent in the healthcare industry as a whole is learning to manage stress and ward off feelings of burnout.  PTs are caring for patients who have suffered traumatic injury or debilitating illness on a daily basis.  The primary goal of helping them regain mobility and independence can be emotionally difficult for even the most positive among us.  PTs have to ensure they are taking time for themselves and finding ways to keep balance in their personal and professional lives.
  • Patient Obesity: According to the CDC, almost 37% of adults in the United States are obese.  In addition to health conditions related to obesity, this growing trend is making it more difficult for Physical Therapists to treat their patients.  Recovery from surgery or injury is a challenge in itself, without the added limitations caused by patients who are obese and unable to perform the basic exercises required for recovery.  This factor causes the patient to attend therapy longer and incur greater costs.
  • Healthcare Legislation: A challenge facing all healthcare providers is the current legislative landscape in Washington.  Since the Affordable Care Act was first passed back in 2010, there has been an unending stream of regulatory changes aimed at the healthcare industry.  From Electronic Health Records to the ICD-10 coding changes, to reimbursement schedules, the impacts have been felt by all.  Unfortunately, rising costs and partisanship in Washington have created an environment where healthcare laws will soon be changing again.  While specifics about how PTs and other practitioners will be impacted is yet to be determined, it is safe to say that 2018 will be another year of adjustment.
  • Keeping Fit: As a physical therapist, long hours on the job is a given.  With your days being taken up by a steady stream of patients and your evenings consumed by documentation and paperwork, it can be difficult to find time for yourself.  Throughout the day, physical exertion can take a toll on your body making it even more important to find the time to maintain your own fitness.  While you are young, the physical requirements of the job may not be an issue, but no one is immune to the effects of aging.  Develop the habits of making time for your own health and fitness early in your career to ensure your body is fit for the long run.

Physical therapy is a personally and professionally rewarding career.  Being able to work closely with your patients and help them work through and overcome the physical difficulties they are facing can be a powerful experience.  Managing the challenges that you will inevitably face, and keeping them in perspective, is one way to keep your focus on the role you are playing in so many patient success stories.

Blog Post: Physical Therapy Challenges During COVID-19

We want to hear from you!  In the comment section below, please share some of the strategies that you have developed in your career to overcome the challenges you face as a Physical Therapist.  Or stop by our Facebook Page and share your story.


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