A Physiotherapist’s Education: Knowledge and Practice
Physiotherapists (or Physical Therapists) are university-trained health care professionals who practice in private clinics or hospitals using a wide range of skills and abilities – including manual (hands-on) therapy, exercise prescription, acupuncture, and orthotics assessments.
Becoming a physiotherapist has become a popular choice for many young people today. Physiotherapists are often referred to as “movement experts” due to their training, education, and vast knowledge of mobility dysfunctions. The musculoskeletal, cardiopulmonary/cardiovascular, neurological, and integumentary systems are all closely studied by physiotherapy students in order to learn the functions of all body systems. Application of treatment procedures and principles is an important part in a physiotherapy program as well as the study of the theories behind these practices.
With a solid background in science and firm hands-on training, physiotherapists aim to restore an individual’s optimal physical function and movement. A physiotherapist’s work is very diverse. It usually involves working with individuals who are affected by illness, injury, or developmental disability, as well as those suffering from various pains and aches of the body.
The Work of a Physiotherapist: Your First Visit
Physiotherapists work in a wide range of medical and rehabilitation settings (such as acute-care hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, residential homes, and private clinics), with various patient populations – paediatrics and geriatrics, patients living with or recovering from heart disease, stroke, and/or other complex medical diagnoses, athletes, expecting mothers, and any individuals with a physical injury or pain. The purpose of physiotherapy is to provide evidence-based treatment that will fit the needs of each individual in order to facilitate recovery and return to optimal functioning (see Specialty Areas of Physiotherapy below).
Upon meeting a client or patient, a physiotherapist will start with an assessment of his or her health condition. This entails reviewing the patient’s medical history, after which a physical examination follows. The information gathered during an assessment is imperative in order for the therapist to create an effective, individualized treatment plan that aims to meet the patient’s personal goals.
Duration of Physiotherapy Training: Not A Minute Wasted
To become a physiotherapist in Canada it is necessary to complete a Master’s Degree in Physiotherapy (M.Sc.PT) in an accredited university. Potential students have a Bachelor’s Degree, usually in the sciences, which is mandatory prior to applying to the physiotherapy program. Some common courses that students take during their undergraduate studies to prepare them for a career in physiotherapy include biology, physiology, chemistry, anatomy, and statistics.
Generally, it takes approximately six to seven years of university-based education and training to become a physiotherapist. This includes, as stated above, approximately four years of undergraduate study and two years in a physiotherapy Master’s Degree program. Within the physiotherapy program students learn theory and participate in clinical internships in hospitals and clinics under supervision of licensed physiotherapists.
Specialty Areas of Physiotherapy: The Calling
Being such a diverse field, practitioners may choose to specialize in a certain branch of physiotherapy (for example, working with a primarily athletic population versus treating stroke patients in a hospital). Key global specifications include orthopaedic, neurological, cardiopulmonary/cardiovascular, geriatric, and paediatric branches of physiotherapy.
The role of a physiotherapist varies depending on the patient population and treatment goals. For example, goals of cardiopulmonary physiotherapy include helping individuals regain independence and improve endurance, as these patients typically experience shortness of breath during daily activities due to heart and/or lung disease. Physiotherapists frequently utilize manual techniques to assist in secretion clearance (i.e., coughing to remove excess mucus) and teach patients energy conservation strategies. Meanwhile, physiotherapists who specialize in the neurological population treat individuals who have disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, and other conditions or diseases.
Orthopaedic physiotherapists undergo specific training that renders them experts in managing painful joints and muscles, fractures or broken bones, acute sports injuries, arthritis, sprains and strains, spinal injuries, and amputations.
Physiotherapists who work with a geriatric population treat conditions that affect the elderly, such as balance disorders, incontinence, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Conversely, in paediatric physiotherapy, the therapist evaluates a child’s specific impairment and creates a customized physiotherapy program to suit the patient’s specific needs.
Physiotherapy in Canada: The Regulating Body
The licensing and registration process in Canada is a multi-level process, governed by The Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators (www.alliancept.org) and the province’s College of Physiotherapists.
The Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators administers the Physiotherapy Competency Examination, a licensing exam which has a written and a practical component. After successful completion of both components, a candidate is eligible to obtain his or her independent physiotherapy license.
Meanwhile, the province’s College of Physiotherapists regulates the practice of physiotherapists in order to serve the interest of the public. Please refer to the College of Physiotherapists of Ontario for more information at http://www.collegept.org.
The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) is the country’s central voluntary professional physiotherapy organization. The main office is located in Toronto, Ontario, but CPA has branches in ten Canadian provinces and territories. Approximately 9000 physiotherapists from all over Canada are members. CPA’s objective is to further enhance excellence in physiotherapy training, research, and practice. Its mission is to “advance the profession of physiotherapy in order to improve the health of Canadians.” (Taken from http://www.physiotherapy.ca/About-Us).