Whether it’s making the patient lunge, lift or stretch, the goal for physical therapist at the end is simple.

Whether it’s making the patient lunge, lift or stretch, the goal for physical therapist at the end is simple.

They want to give the patient their life back. Pain free.

“Patients usually come and they’re usually in pain or they can’t function the way they want,” says Chris Brown, supervisor of outpatient therapies at St. Mary’s Medical Center. “And by the time they leave, we’re able to get them independent and get them pain free or relatively pain free. They’re able to get along with their life.”

Physical therapists, like many professions within the health care field, is steadilty growing.

Employment of physical therapists is projected to grow by 30 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.

There were 285,000 physical therapists in 2008 and it’s projected to be 241,700 in 2019.

The reason for the jump can be attributed to an aging population and a projected increase in elderly baby boomers.

“We have seen an increase in patients coming through,” said Brown, who has been a physical therapist for a decade.

Like the title, the job can be phsyical not just for the patient but the therapist who have to stoop, kneel, crouch, lift and stand for long periods.

Therapists examine each individual and develop a plan using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function and prevent disability.

The outpatient center has not only phyiscal therapists but occupational and speech therapy as well.

Physical therapists typically treat patients who have had total knee and hip replacements as well as any type of joint surgeries or strains. They also treat neurological problems like patients who have suffered a stroke, brain tumors or head injury.

They don’t just treat senior citizens. There’s the teenager who injuried an ankle playing basketball and needs their help.

There’s weekend warriors in their 30s or 40s who landed, for instance, on his shoulder playing flag football.

But Brown said the majority of rehabilitation are joint-related from joint fractures, replacement or strains.

On average, patients see their therapist two or three times a week for eight weeks.

There are six therapists( physical, speech and occupational) working at outpatient therapies.

There are three physical therapists.

It takes strong communication stills and being a people-person.

Patients, flexability, good reasoning and compassion can serve a therapist well.

“Your patients might not always be in the same frame of mind everyday, so to be able to read their pain or participation level can really be helpful,” Brown said.

You will need a master’s degree to be a speech or occupational therapist.

For a physical therapist, you will need a doctoral degree in physical therapy.

Having a doctorate is not mandatory to land a physical therapy job. There are many therapist who have practiced for years with only a master’s degree.

“The growing trend is that eventually everybody will have that (doctorate),” Brown said. 

So that’s four years of undergraduate level course to get your bachelor’s degree followed by three or four years of graduate school.

The state of Missouri requires you pass a board test before practicing therapy.

A new graduate in the Kansas City metro can expect to make between $25 to 30 per hour and an experienced therapist could earn $28 to 35 per hour.

Lisa Hulik, an outpatient physical therapist at St. Mary’s, said the reasoning behind physical therapists getting a doctoral degree is to become more independent from hospital doctors.

Patients can come directly to a therapist if they, for example, sprain an ankle, they can go see a physical therapist tomorrow rather than waiting three or four days to get into a physician, said Hulik, who has her doctorate in physical therapy.

Therapist can be found in skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, schools, outpatient clinics, the U.S. military.

“You can be a therapist in many different settings,” Brown said.