So You Want to Be a Physical Therapist
I read the comments about last week's blog with interest. I noticed several references to reconsidering physical therapy as a career choice. That got me thinking. If I had to do it today would I still choose to become a PT? I don't thinks so. I couldn't afford the cost and I couldn't make the time commitment. Back in the day (1980s), it was a four-year program. Post professional education didn't exist. I was able to work my way through college and earned my degree with minimal debt. It wasn't easy, but I could do it. If I hadn't have been able to work, I wouldn't have been able to go to college.
Today it's different. The time commitment can be seven years or more. The cost is staggering. Working while in PT school is practically unheard of now. A person could graduate and then spend the next 10 to 20 years paying off debt. That combination puts the profession out of the reach of many individuals who would make excellent therapists. These are people who want to be therapists for the right reasons. I have yet to hear one comment from the Vision 2020 group addressing this. I don't quite understand how setting the cost at the point it discourages those who would make the profession stronger helps the profession.
In the comments there was also a debate about salary and level of education being disproportionate. I wasn't aware there had to be a linear relationship. The problem results from the high cost of education in a world with decreasing reimbursement. Reimbursement rates will continue to decline. In that environment, salaries will not increase. To say that is causing a crisis in health care is an understatement. The reality is-beyond a select few-no one is going to get rich being a physical therapist. A decent living can be made, but there is a salary ceiling.
I am a one income individual. On my salary I am able to own a home, truck and two horses. I have a question for those who say the salary is too low. What income level are you shooting for? If money is your goal, there are other professions that pay more with equal or less education. Maybe you should consider one of them.
Prestige was another comment thread. We must have it. If I hear that one more time I am going to lose it. My dictionary defines prestige as "prominence or influential status achieved through success, renown or wealth." My dictionary is a little old so the definition may have changed. To me that sounds like wanting status because you have a title-not because you did anything. I would rather have respect. Do I have to define that? Respect is earned. As defined, prestige sounds like it is given automatically. In that case, anyone with a certain title has prestige whether they deserve it or not. If you want status, become a physician, run a corporation or win the lottery.
Sadly, in these discussions about becoming a therapist and what it means to be a therapist, I saw no mention of providing patient care. I read nothing about providing quality care that makes a difference in someone's life. What happened to being a therapist to work with children? Or to work with athletes? Or because a therapist made a difference in your life? If becoming a therapist depends upon money and prestige, I think we were better back in the days when I went to school. I wonder if Vision 2020 took that into account.