For a long time Physical Therapists were trained with a Bachelors degree, and this is
the degree by which they could apply for and eventually receive a license to practice
physical therapy. The physical therapy profession is ever changing, and as we arrive
at a place in the healthcare world where Physical Therapists (P.T.’s) are often at the
front lines of initial injury and injury prevention – the vast majority of accredited
physical therapy programs now require a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT).
Of course, the profession did not change over night from a Bachelors degree to a
Doctorate. The profession transitioned, first, to a Masters degree (MPT or MSPT)
and in the past 15 years or so most programs have transformed to doctorate
degrees. If your P.T. graduated from physical therapy school prior to that time, then
you might see the letters “tDPT” by his/her name. The “t” stands for “transitional”,
which means someone whom graduated with a MPT or MSPT went back to school to
complete additional coursework and research to earn the equivalent of a DPT.
If you happen to roll your ankle playing in your weekend basketball or soccer game,
or “tweak” your knee skiing or snowboarding in the greatest snow on Earth – then
you are likely to see a Physical Therapist before you see any other healthcare
provider. Utah, like most states, offers Direct Access, meaning most of the time you
can go straight to see your P.T. versus needing to get a referral from your primary
physician prior to seeing a P.T. This often eliminates unnecessary X-rays and
increased healthcare costs. Physical Therapists are excellent diagnosticians, and
often spend the majority of their day evaluating and re-evaluating injuries. Not only
that, but often P.T.’s just inherently have more time to spend with you than your
physician might – making physical therapists the obvious choice to deal with your
orthopedic injuries. If further care is needed, or your P.T. does not believe your
injury can be dealt with appropriately in physical therapy, he or she will refer you to
the most appropriate healthcare professional.
Because of the increased demand on physical therapists, and P.T.’s performing more
primary care provider roles, most of us are pushing for further education.
“Residency” for physical therapists was born from this idea. What is Residency?
Residency is when a physical therapy graduate (usually someone whom has recently
earned his/her Doctorate in Physical Therapy) is brought on to an established
clinical practice, like Fast Track Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, to practice
physical therapy in an environment where he/she can learn from other experienced
providers and gain one-on- one mentoring while also gaining invaluable P.T.
experience. Residents have a thirst for knowledge, and a true desire to be valuable
to their patients/clients as well as their employer. Fast Track Physical Therapy and
Sports Medicine now offers Orthopedic and Sports Residency programs through
EIM (Evidence in Motion).
When you are choosing a Physical Therapist, I hope you consider what the letters
behind his/her name actually mean. We all practice under the same license (within
the same state), and if you are utilizing health insurance that each P.T. accepts, then
we all charge essentially the same amount for our services. I am not saying that
someone who has received his/her Doctorate in Physical Therapy is a better
physical therapist than the person whom has received his/her MPT or MSPT – not at
all. Experience plays a role, as do several other factors, including what other special
certifications he/she might have or areas of practice he/she work in. I can tell you
this though: as the owner of a physical therapy private practice, I will only hire those
P.T.’s that have shown the commitment to the patients/clients they serve, as well as
to their profession – earning the highest possible degree offered in physical therapy,
a Doctorate (DPT). As a consumer of physical therapy myself, I want to be treated
by an individual with those same standards. At Fast Track Physical Therapy and
Sports Medicine we are also committed to continuing the education of physical
therapists by hosting Orthopedic and Sports Residencies through EIM.
George Shirley, PT, DPT, MS, ATC, ASTYM and TPI Certified
Owner: Fast Track Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine
6717 S. 900 East, Suite 201
Midvale, UT 84047
PH: 801-649- 4690
FAX: 801-984- 4011