A Typical Day For A Physical Therapist

Physical therapists have a wide range of responsibilities and their days are packed with ever-changing scenarios.

With patients ranging in age and ability, physical therapists enjoy working with every type of medical situation.

Because PTs have such a ranging skill set, they can work in a number of locations providing seemingly endless medical interventions for their patients. These locations can include:

  • Private practices
  • In patient’s homes
  • Outpatient clinics or offices
  • Inpatient rehabilitation facilities
  • Schools or Education and research centers
  • Skilled nursing or extended care facilities
  • Fitness centers and/or sports training facilities
  • Hospices
  • Industrial, workplace, or other occupational environments

If you are asking yourself, “What does a physical therapist do?”, here are just some of the ways Physical Therapists work with patients:

  • They teach patients how to prevent and/or manage a physical condition to achieve long-term health benefits.
  • They examine each patient and then develop a treatment plan.
  • They use scientifically proven techniques to promote mobility and restore function while reducing pain and preventing long-term disability.
  • They work with athletes as a preventative measure to prevent injury and loss of mobility before it occurs.

Physical therapy practitioners take a full-body approach to well-being. They understand the entire body’s mechanics and create treatment plans tailored to each individual patient’s needs.

Now that we’ve covered a number of fun facts about Physical Therapists, let’s take a look at what a typical day might look like.

Morning Schedule for a PT

The first step in every Physical Therapist’s day is often the same. Before the first patient arrives, the focus is on preparation for the day.

Since many PTs begin seeing patients at 8:00 AM, the PT is often the first person to arrive at the office, anywhere from 7:00 – 7:30 AM.

Depending on the patient list for the day, there are a number of things a PT will do to prepare:

  • Ensure the therapy area is clean.
  • Review the day’s patient list and corresponding patient treatment plans.
  • Gather all necessary therapy tools, paperwork, and activities for those patients.
  • Block out a treatment schedule based on patient plans.
  • Review and/or prepare instructions based on notes from the previous session.

There are instances in which PTs do some of this effort at the end of the day so the mornings are less busy, such as reviewing the patient load and corresponding notes can certainly be done the day before.

8:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Meeting with Patients

Any returning patient will “pick up where they left off” in terms of their treatment plan. This can include a number of things, such as:

  • Hands-on work such as soft-tissue work, stretching and more
  • Teaching the patient new exercises to do during therapy and at home
  • Going over pain relief techniques (if necessary)

Appointments commonly last one hour and will almost always include some kind of hands-on treatment mixed with exercise and communicating an at-home plan to work on before their next visit. PTs typically see 3 patients in the morning unless they prefer a later lunch.

Lunch might not fit perfectly into their schedule because of late patients and other delays, so flexibility is key!

Afternoon Schedule for a PT

1:00 – 4:00 PM: Meeting with Patients

It is very possible that a Physical Therapist will meet a new patient on any given day. When that happens, things are a bit more structured. We break down new patient onboarding below:

Step One: The PT will start by taking the patient’s history. A nurse or a chart from their Physician can also provide details, but the therapist will sit with a new patient for a while gathering history in order to learn more.

Step Two: The PT will examine the injury or area that will be treated. After examining the area, they will continue to seek out important details as they relate to the patient’s injury.

A PT needs as much information as possible in order to design the most comprehensive treatment plan for each individual patient.

Step Three: The PT will build a patient chart to include all they have learned, as well as any other information provided by the patient’s Physician, family/caregiver, and other medical professionals currently treating the patient.

Step Four: Create short- and long-term goals for the patient so the success of treatment can be measured.

Step Five: Develop a treatment plan. The plan includes things like the types of treatments the PT will be providing, the frequency of visits, potential at-home exercises and more.

Of course, your afternoon might also include seeing more returning patients, which you will typically see until 4 PM.

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM: Patient Review

It is possible that you will continue to see patients past 4 PM, but many offices leave time at the end of a PT’s day for review.

This time is specifically used to notate the progress of each patient seen that day. While a PT will likely jot down a few things during the appointment, this is when notes are fleshed out and finalized.

Scheduling Can Vary

Of course, if you choose to take a job in a hospital or hospice setting, or work as an in-home PT, your daily work life will not line up with the one we outlined above. The treating and onboarding patient elements remain the same, but the scheduling will vary significantly.

No matter what your day looks like, you’ll know you’re truly making a positive impact in your patients’ lives

Have a question about becoming a physical therapist? Contact us to learn how we can help.


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