Pre-Physical Therapy

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Major in Pre-Physical Therapy

Article by Rachelle Wiggins

“Whatever work God has allotted to you for this day, year, or decade, do it for His glory with the zeal and diligence that is granted to us through the Holy Spirit.”  ~Christos Makridis

Physical therapy (PT) is a health and wellness profession dedicated to restoring fitness and health, specifically by reducing pain and improving muscle strength, stamina, range of motion and mobility. PT patients may be injured athletes, stroke victims, or those suffering from neurological trauma, chronic disability or illness. PTs work in hospitals, rehab centers, private therapy offices, residential centers, and in-home settings. Often collaberating as teammates with physicians, occupational therapists and other healthcare professionals, PTs are concerned with the science of movement and are trained to employ a wide range of exercises, stretches and hands-on therapies including the use of exercise tools and machines which are scientifically designed to improve physical functioning. The projected growth rate for this life-enhancing profession is on the rise. On average, other fields increase by about 7% per year, but physical therapy is growing at a projected 28% over the next decade, making it one of the country’s fastest growing professions! In addition, it has been rated as one of the “Top 20 Best Jobs” based on market growth, associated stress level, work-life balance and salary.

So, beyond a compassionate heart and the passion to help people, what are some of the other essential skills and traits necessary for excelling as a pre-physical therapy major? For starters, it is important to have a strong sense of determination. Not only is the program fairly demanding, but the job itself can be challenging and requires a level of ongoing education in order to stay up-to-date with rapidly changing therapies and treatments. Mental and physical stamina is critical. Also, when working with diverse populations, strong interpersonal and communication skills are a must! In PT it is imperative to listen well so as to properly assess the needs of patients and respond with optimum care. There is a lot of explaining, coaching, motivating and evaluation required and a client’s progress must constantly be reassessed. Because of this, it is important to be a patient, flexible problem-solver. A physical therapist must hold a fine balance between optimist and realism. Managing the ever-changing work load and treatment goals of multiple patients requires diligent organizational skills as well.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in pre-physical therapy, the majority of students will continue on in their education to obtain a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) which is typically a three-year program. Some colleges offer accelerated or dual degree programs to help students meet their undergraduate and graduate degree goals within six years. Regardless of your degree particulars, you should be prepared for long lab hours, 50+ hours of PT volunteer or work-related experience (required by most schools) and some sort of PT internship. Once your core requirements are met, including plenty of science courses like biology, chemistry and physics, your major in pre-physical therapy will include classes such as:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Exercise Science
  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Statistics
  • Kinesiology
  • Psychology (General and Developmental)

Obviously the most natural fit for a degree as specialized as physical therapy is in the immediate field of PT. However, PT majors find themselves in other related careers as well. Some examples are:

  • Athletic trainer
  • Massage therapist
  • Podiatrist
  • Medical transcriptionist
  • Prosthetics or orthotics purchasing agent
  • Occupational therapist
  • Sports therapist

If you empathize with the hurting and thrive in a caregiving role, then maybe God’s next step for you is a major in pre-physical therapy!  “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3

A future in Pre-Physical Therapy

By Amber Gragert

A pre-physical therapy program will provide the guidance and prerequisite courses necessary to prepare students for graduate study in physical therapy. There are also typically opportunities to have concentrations within other majors, such as: biology, health sciences and physical education. Before we delve into all of that though, let's discuss what physical therapy is.

Physical therapy is a relatively young profession that began during the polio epidemics and world wars in the early 1900s. With those events, there was an inflation in the number of young people suffering from mobility issues. By definition physical therapy is, "The treatment of disease, injury, or deformity by physical methods such as massage, heat treatment, and exercise rather than by drugs or surgery." So, this is the approach taken when searching for pain relief and even healing without the use of narcotics and/or "going under the knife” and in some cases as a rehabilitation method after a surgery. So how is this accomplished?

Well, the patient may be recovering from an injury, surgery, or suffer from a disability or disease. So a physical therapy professional first performs physical evaluations on their patients to determine the potential for rehabilitation and a course of treatment. Part of the evaluation process is deciding how much of the rehabilitation can happen simply through life style changes. This is so the therapist can educate the patient and their family (and/or other caretakers) on how to go about adjusting their environment and habits for the best healing outcome. After which, the therapist can treat their patient's disabilities by way of exercise, manual techniques - such as massage and stretching, performance of functional mobility activities and physical agents. Patients are also taught how to remain healthy, prevent injury, and maintain a healthy and physically active lifestyle.

Remember, this is usually not a major, but a program that, when completed will aid in your decisions on what specifics you want to focus on when applying to graduate school.

In this program of study, you will gain a firm understanding of the science of movement - which is without a doubt key to getting the best results for your patients. This information and knowledge will build nicely upon the foundational biology you learned in high school and it will take shape all through graduate school. Your course work will include subjects such as: anatomy & physiology, biology, chemistry, developmental psychology, exercise physiology, physics and, very likely, hands-on learning through internships. You will learn to consider how factors like age, diet, health history, genetics, and lifestyle influence mobility, and athletic performance.

You could help promote human health, wellness, and function through care as a physical therapist and work in any number of places such as: home health care, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, sports clinics, and veteran rehabilitation centers. If you are seriously devoted to serving and helping others and have excellent communication skills, all while being drawn to a healthcare profession, then a pre-physical therapy program would be a nice fit for you.