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What Does a Physical Therapy Internship Entail?

Tue, Sep 4, 2012

Internship Information

A career in the field of physical therapy can be one of the most challenging and fulfilling for those interested in the science of kinesiology (the study of human movement) or in a medical field that doesn’t require 8 years of schooling followed by several more years of required internships and residency. Patients that are involved in sports, are recovering from accidents, or are otherwise suffering physical injuries need qualified trainers to help them get back on their feet (sometimes literally) in a safe manner that will return them to peak condition. So while it can certainly be a demanding and stressful job, you’ll get to work with people one-on-one and play a role in helping them to regain bodily function and return to their normal lives, a position that can lead to great job satisfaction. And if you’re interested in entering this field, you’ll almost certainly want to secure an internship (or several) as a way to see real-world implementations of the lessons you’ve learned, as well as get an idea of how to interact with clients in a professional manner. Here are just a few things you can expect when you start your internship.

Unlike some internships, which allow for very little hands-on experience (often due to strict legal limitations), the field of physically therapy will give you a lot of leeway to try out the skills and knowledge you’ve picked up in school. You’ll not only get to try your hand at creating treatment plans for patients (under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist), but you’ll also get to interact with patients as a way to hone your bedside manner, so to speak. For students raised in the internet era of limited interpersonal interaction, this type of supervised activity could be a major boon. Social situations may not be easy for some people, so it is extremely helpful to practice in a controlled environment where a professional is available to offer guidance and advice.

You’ll definitely get some experience in the arenas of analyzing patients, formulating plans for treatment, and even assisting in implementing those plans with a supervising professional in attendance. This will allow you to see first-hand how the treatments you’ve been studying apply to real-world situations (pertaining to cardiopulmonary function in addition to musculoskeletal and neuromuscular improvements). But depending on where your internship occurs you may also have access to the latest techniques and technological equipment in the field, adding to your knowledge base so that you are better informed when it comes time to take on your own patients.

Some internships may be more restrictive than others when it comes to observing versus participating in therapies, and this depends largely on the therapist or clinic offering the internship as well as the preference of patients. And you almost certainly won’t have access to travel physical therapy internships since you probably need to stay close to your school campus. But there are plenty of perks to be gained from accepting a physical therapy internship, and anything that helps you to enhance your skills in your chosen field is well worth the time and effort, especially if it allows you to interact with and help patients in need.

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