Are Physical Therapists Doctors? We see this as a conceptual debate. To be clear, physical therapists are not cheap doctors.
So, who are physical therapists? Are they a distinct branch of medicine? Can they even be called doctors? Are they something else entirely?
It will interest you to know that physical therapists and doctors offer medical treatment to patients. Physical therapists are experts in the science of physical therapy, recovery, and preventative measures to safeguard the physical body. They understand pain as well as recovery. They understand the fear of surgery and will go to any length to avoid it.
But isn’t a doctor someone who has received medical training and is qualified to prescribe medication and diagnose medical problems? So, are physical therapists doctors? Find out below.
Are Physical Therapists Doctors?
Are physical therapists doctors? It depends.
It is now mandatory for all physical therapists to have a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree to practice professionally.
That means if you want to become a physical therapist, you must complete a doctoral program approved by The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
A New York Times article submitted that physicians were pushing back against other healthcare professionals with doctorates who used the term ‘doctor,’ noting they did not undergo the same education and clinical experience as physicians.
To address this issue, APTA responded: “In order to provide accurate information to consumers, the association provides clear guidelines for physical therapists regarding the use of the title ‘Doctor.’
The guidelines state that physical therapists, in all clinical settings, who hold a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT), shall indicate they are physical therapists when using the title ‘Doctor’ or ‘Dr’ and shall use the titles in accordance with jurisdictional law.”
So, a physical therapist is a doctor who has received the necessary training and credentials to practice their medical specialty safely and effectively.
But, we know that not all physical therapists have a Doctorate degree. Some physical therapists only have a Bachelor’s degree, while others have a Master’s of Science in Physical Therapy.
Thousands of older physical therapists with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees continue to work in clinics across the country. As a result, a physical therapist is not always a doctor, as not all physical therapists hold a doctorate degree (DPT).
Can Physical Therapists be Considered Doctors?
As previously stated, the only way to become a physical therapist now that the APTA’s new rule is in effect is to earn your doctorate, which is required before you can take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and then your state licensure exam.
Simply put, a Doctor of Physical Therapy or Doctor of Physiotherapy degree is a physical therapy qualifying degree. It is considered a graduate-level first professional degree or a doctorate degree for professional practice in the United States.
Also, in the United States, a Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy degree is available for those who already hold a professional Bachelor’s or Master of Physical Therapy degree.
With that stated, a qualified physical therapist today in the US is eligible to have the prefix “Dr.” before his name.
Who is a physical therapist?
A physical therapist is a health professional who evaluates and treats disorders of the human body.
Physical therapists assist people of all ages and stages of life. Some people seek the advice of a physical therapist in order to become healthier and avoid future problems.
They may assist you in dealing with illnesses or injuries to your:
- Musculoskeletal system (bones and muscles)
- Neurological systems (brain)
- Cardiopulmonary system (heart and lungs)
- Integumentary system (skin)
You can find physical therapists at:
- Long-term care facilities
- Athletics facilities
- Schools, and
What do physical therapists do?
Physical therapists are typically referred by doctors and other professionals. They will usually begin with a physical examination to gain a better understanding of your problem.
As part of your treatment plan, they may use a combination of the following:
- Using various pieces of equipment
- Other hands-on methods
The goal is to restore functionality in specific body areas by improving movement and increasing motion range.
Continuous physical therapy treatment may reduce your need for prescription drugs, surgery, or additional physical therapy in the future.
Physical therapists’ daily tasks include the following:
- Observing you standing, walking around, and performing tasks to diagnose your condition and ability to function.
- Taking note of your concerns.
- Creating an individualized care plan based on their observations of your condition, your goals, and your expected outcomes.
- Using therapeutic tools like electrical stimulation machines or kinesthetic tape.
- Keeping track of your progress.
- Assisting you in using assistive devices such as a crutch or cane.
- Making and carrying out plans to release you from care when necessary.
Most physical therapists work on their feet. They rely on their bodies to perform tasks like lifting, moving, and manipulating your movements. Physical therapists rely on your ability to connect with others and motivate them to help you progress.
Specializations of Physical Therapists
Physical therapists can specialize in a variety of areas, including:
- Oncology (Cancer)
- Cardiovascular (heart) and pulmonology (lungs)
- Geriatrics (elderly health)
- Orthopedics (bone, joint, and spinal issues)
- Neurology (brain health)
- Clinical electrophysiology
- Pediatrics (children’s health)
We hope it is now clear to you. When someone asks you if physical therapists are doctors, you can now say a big YES if they have a doctorate degree and NO if they don’t.
We hope this article was helpful. Do well to share it with others. Thank you.