Physical Therapy Job Settings

Where Do Physical Therapists Work?

Photo of a physical therapist helping a man.
Your physical therapist may work in a variety of different settings. Andersen Ross/Getty Images

One of the benefits of being a physical therapist is the variety of job settings there are to choose from. It is often not thought of, but physical therapists have a multitude of job settings in which to practice.  This provides physical therapists with a unique understanding of helping people gain maximal functional mobility across the lifespan.

Physical Therapy in the Hospital

The hospital setting is a common place where physical therapists work, but within the hospital, there are specialty areas where your PT may work.

These may include:

  • Acute care or the intensive care unit
  • Emergency department
  • Orthopedic and surgical floors
  • Geriatric floors
  • Oncology
  • Cardiac rehabilitation

Anytime you are hospitalized, you doctors have a responsibility to ensure that you are safe to return home before discharging you from the hospital.  Your physical therapist will work with you in the hospital to help you regain mobility so you can safely return home.

Outpatient Physical Therapy

Outpatient clinics are another common setting where physical therapists are employed. There are many private as well as nationally owned physical therapy clinics throughout the US. Many specialize in sports medicine rehabilitation.

Your local hospital may also have an outpatient physical therapy clinic, either in the main hospital or at an offsite satellite clinic.

Outpatient clinics typically treat orthopedic conditions which may include:

Although many people think only of musculoskeletal conditions when considering outpatient therapy, your local clinic may treat people with neurological conditions or cardiac conditions in outpatient cardiac rehab. Anytime you have a condition where you are not able to function normally, you should think about checking in with your doctor or visiting your outpatient physical therapist.

Physical Therapy in a Rehabilitation Hospital

Rehabilitation hospitals and centers are yet another popular setting for physical therapists. Here physical therapists work in a team along with occupational, speech, and recreational therapists to provide patients with complete therapy.

If you have had surgery like a total knee replacement or hip replacement and do not need intensive hospital care, you may spend time in a short term rehab hospital. There your PT will work with other allied health professionals to help you regain enough functional mobility to return home.

Physical Therapy in Your Home

Home health agencies are another popular setting in which physical therapists work. In this type of employment, physical therapists go to their patient's houses and provide therapy in the home. This is provided for those patients who are unable to leave their home.

Your physical therapist may also be an independent PT who travels to your home to provide your services.  Home care physical therapy can help you restore your functional mobility so you can return to your previous level of activity.

School Based Physical Therapy

The school systems also employ physical therapists to work with students in special education classes. Physical therapy is a part of these disabled students' learning curriculum. 

The work that physical therapists do in school is important.  If your child has a functional limitation that may impede their full potential to learn and develop like their peers, they may receive physical therapy in their school.  Your PT can work closely with you, your child, and your child''s teacher to ensure that he or she has every opportunity to excel in their educational pursuits.

Corporate Physical Therapists

Some physical therapists work with large corporations, especially those involved in heavy labor, manufacturing, or warehouse work. These PTs help to train workers in proper body mechanics, lifting techniques, and ergonomics. They may also be involved in employee wellness initiatives and in exercise and fitness screenings.

PT in Sports Medicine and Athletic Training Centers

Your physical therapist may be a sports specialist who works with athletes to help them recover after injuries. Sports medicine physical therapists are also experts in injury prevention, helping athletes reach their full athletic potential while minimizing the risk of injury.

Your physical therapist may also work in a nursing home, adult center, or with a physician in the office to help people regain or maintain safe functional mobility.

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings with people all across the lifespan.  If you are having difficulty with your normal mobility, you may benefit from the skilled services of a physical therapist to help you recover and reach your maximum functional potential.

Edited by Brett Sears, PT.

Continue Reading