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Jason Richardson talks about his career as a Physical Therapist.  Find him at www.resultsphysiotherapy.com and on his Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.

What do you do for a living?

I am a physical therapist and senior executive for a private out-patient orthopedic physical therapy company based in Franklin, TN. We operate 38 clinics in 3 states.

How would you describe what you do?

We use a hands-on manual therapy approach to assessing orthopedic patients who are in pain due to a variety of movement disorders. Our most common ailments include: Low Back Pain, Neck Pain, and Shoulder Pain. Quality physical therapy services are a key to keeping people active and independent. Physical Therapists are key in preventing the cumulative effects of movement dysfunction that can ultimately lead to surgery if they go untreated. When we get the right patients early enough, we can prevent a large percentage of surgeries. With that, part of being a good therapist is recognizing what you can’t fix. This can be teased out in the PT examination so that the appropriate referral can be made. Ultimately, our interest is to keep our patients active and functioning pain free throughout the life stages.

What does your work entail?

The majority of our therapists earned a clinical doctorate in physical therapy and are also board certified in orthopedics through ABPTS and concurrently hold their manual therapy certification.  We see patients with acute, sub-acute and chronic neuromusculoskeletal problems from various causes—ie. Trauma, Overuse, injury, etc.

What’s a typical work week like?

All of our therapists are full time and manage their patient loads in approximately 40 hours per week. Some therapists choose to participate in community out-reach and assist athletes at the high school level or through club teams. This is an excellent way to showcase our skillset and assist the athletes in getting back to play more quickly and safely.

How did you get started?

I was first exposed to physical therapy from a sporting injury I sustained in high school. My interest grew from there after I shadowed my PT for a summer. I later earned my bachelor of science in biology where I acquired the pre-requisites to enroll in PT school. After being accepted, I attended Shenandoah University where I earned my Masters of Physical Therapy.  I later returned to earn my clinical doctorate with an emphasis in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and completed my clinical research on the manual treatment of headaches stemming from the neck. My initial work experience was in a physician owned clinic where I gained great experience in effectively treating post-operative cases.  I later took on a role with a corporate physical therapy practice and finally joined my current employer shortly after in 2002.

What do you like about what you do?

I am passionate about helping my patients find relief from their pain while getting them to confidently return to their appropriate life-stage activities or sporting goals.  We change lives and improve our patients’ quality of life.

Additionally, in today’s health delivery model, too many patients are searching for an alternative to medications and surgery.  I am also passionate about working with patient advocates, medical groups, policy makers, and legislators to remove unwarranted patient obstacles to seeing a physical therapist.  All patients deserve the right to see a licensed physical therapist without arbitrary referral or payment regulations!

What do you dislike?

Documentation/paperwork–though it is very necessary.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

All of our therapists are paid on salary plus bonuses.

How much money do Physical Therapists make?

Globally across all PT settings and across the country the median PT salary is $80,000 pa.  Here is a link with more specifics by geographic location and setting–http://www.apta.org/WorkforceData/.

How much money did/do you make starting out as a Physical Therapist?

Starting salaries differ based on setting and geography.  Our starting salaries for new grads range from $55,000 pa to $62,000 in more rural settings.  We reward our therapist on merit and their earnings can grow based on performance and contributions to executing our mission.

What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

All licensed Physical Therapists must graduate from an accredited physical therapy program.  Nearly all accredited programs train therapists at the post graduate Doctoral degrees level.

What is most challenging about what you do?

Balancing a clinical environment that fosters a patient-centered focus with reasonable reimbursement from 3rd parties.

What is most rewarding?

Helping alleviate our patients’ pain and confidently return them back to activities they enjoy. It is also very rewarding to prevent a looming surgery.

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

Shadow a therapist/volunteer.

How much time off do you get/take?

Paid leave varies from employer to employer and setting to setting.   The majority of our therapists are earning 17-18 days vacation plus 9 holidays.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

That Physical Therapy is a hot pack and bike.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

I envision that physical therapists will play a vital role in primary care for patients suffering musculoskeletal problems.  Physical Therapists will play this key role as part of an interdisciplinary team within the traditional medical model.   Physicians, specialists, and other health care providers will all collaborate with a focus on improving community health and not focus on turf.  The focus will be on achieving improvements in community health and not focus on fragmented turf battles.  All providers will concentrate on abundance and not scarcity. The general public needs viable cost-effective alternatives to encourage safe modulated activity.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

The key to managing most chronic disease is exercise. The leading cause of reduced activity within the population is pain.  PTs offer a viable cost-effective solution to get people moving again without pain.

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