Healthcare Insider Blog

DPT Career Spotlight: Pediatric Physical Therapy

  • Healthcare Alvernia

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recreational activities, including sports, account for approximately 3.2 million emergency room visits each year in the U.S. in children ages 5-14 years — and for children ages 12-17, sports-related injuries are the leading cause of emergency room visits.

Add that to the millions of children here in the U.S. living with a disability, and you will see the great and growing need for physical therapists working in pediatrics.

In this video by Move Forward PT, a product of The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), Tina Duong, PT, MPT at Children’s National Medical Center, explains the role of a pediatric physical therapist.

Duong explains that the patients she works with have a wide range of diseases as well as a wide age range — covering pre-term infants in the NICU up to those in their early 20’s. She also explains that as a pediatric physical therapist you may find yourself practicing in a variety of environments, including schools, homes, and in-patient and out-patient clinics.

Working in pediatrics, Duong explains, requires creativity. You must come up with fun and engaging ways to get children to do their exercises and keep their focus. You must also be flexible due to the unpredictable, and sometimes uncooperative, nature of children, and of course, you must enjoy kids in general.

One challenge pediatric physical therapists encounter that other specialties may not is working with patients who are still growing and developing.

“In pediatrics there’s a lot of understanding motor movements and how a child grows up. And part of growing up is not only learning motor skills, but as they get older and their body changes how they move may change or what they need may change,” explains Duong in the video. “And so as they transition from elementary school to middle school to high school there are things that need to be adjusted.”

Because parents, families and caretakers play the primary role in a child’s development, their presence and involvement in their child’s physical therapy session is crucial. Exercises and techniques used by the physical therapist in sessions must then be taken and incorporated into a child’s every day routine at home — where the responsibility of making sure these exercises are being done properly and frequently then falls on the family.

Alvernia DPT students interested in working with pediatrics have the opportunity to take DPT 802: Pediatric Physical Therapy Elective. Providing an in-depth study of the pediatric specialty, this course covers the entire evaluative process, diagnosis and management of a broad array of clinical presentations in pediatrics, the role of family in physical therapy, and the role of physical therapists in a variety of settings, from home to in-patient and out-patient clinical settings to educational and play environments.

Effective November 12, 2014, Alvernia University has been granted Candidate for Accreditation status by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA, 22314; phone: 703-706-3245; email: accreditation@apta.org). Candidacy is not an accreditation status nor does it assure eventual accreditation. Candidate for Accreditation is a pre-accreditation status of affiliation with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education that indicates the program is progressing toward accreditation.

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