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Physical Rehabilitation


THE VETERINARY PHYSICAL REHAB. PROFESSION
 

What's a ...

 

WHAT IS A PHYSICAL THERAPIST?

The physical therapist provides services aimed at preventing the onset and/or the treatment of conditions resulting from injury, disease, and other causes that affect mobility. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (see their weblink at http://www.apta.org/pt_magazine/oct99/closer.html) although the use of certain techniques of physical therapy goes back to ancient times, the modern profession of physical therapy developed in the twentieth century, in the wake of World War I. The very first modern American physical therapists were trained to work with soldiers returning from the war, and several groups of "reconstruction aides," as they were then called, actually were sent to military hospitals in France to institute early rehabilitation with wounded veterans.

Today's physical therapist is a direct descendant of these brave women (and a few men). Physical therapists now practice in a wide variety of settings, with patients from all age groups. Many people are familiar with physical therapists' work helping patients with orthopedic problems, such as low back pain or knee surgeries, to reduce pain and regain function. Others may be aware of the treatment that physical therapists provide to assist patients recovering from a stroke in learning to use their limbs and walk again. If you are old enough to remember the mid-century polio epidemics, you might be aware of the important role that physical therapists played in helping people with this disease minimize or overcome its paralyzing effects. Each of these recollections captures the essence of physical therapists. In today's health care system, physical therapists are the experts in the examination and treatment of musculoskeletal and neuromuscular problems that affect peoples' abilities to move the way they want and function as well as they want in their daily lives.

Movement and Function

The ability to maintain an upright posture and to move your arms and legs to perform all sorts of tasks and activities is an important component of your health. Most of us can learn to live with the various medical conditions that we may develop, but only if we are able to continue at our jobs, take care of our families, and enjoy important occasions with family and friends. All of these activities require the ability to move without difficulty or pain.

For some of us, the ability to move is not merely a matter of using our limbs to walk or handle objects. There are cardiac and pulmonary problems that interfere with the body's ability to use oxygen, which is the "fuel" of muscles and movement. Because people of all ages, from the newborn to the very aged, have the need to move and function, physical therapists work with patients across the lifespan. You might see physical therapists working with patients or clients in hospitals (even critically ill patients in the intensive care unit), in nursing homes, in outpatient clinics, in the home, in schools, and on the job.

Because physical therapists are experts in movement and function, they do not confine their talents to treating people who are ill. A large part of a physical therapist's program is directed at preventing injury and loss of movement. Physical therapists work as consultants in industrial settings to improve the design of the workplace and reduce the risk of workers overusing certain muscles or developing low back pain. They also provide services to athletes at all levels to screen for potential problems and institute preventive exercise programs. With the boom in the fitness industry, a number of physical therapists are engaged in consulting with individuals and fitness clubs to develop workouts that are safe and effective, especially for people who already know that they have a problem with their joints or their backs.

Education and Licensure

Because physical therapists are required to understand a vast array of problems that can affect movement, function, and health, all physical therapists are college graduates. The majority of physical therapist education programs graduate students with a master's degree, and a few schools offer a clinical doctorate in physical therapy. All physical therapists also are required to take a national examination and be licensed by the state in which they practice. Some physical therapists seek advanced certification in a clinical specialty, such as orthopaedic, neurologic, cardiopulmonary, pediatric, geriatric, or sports physical therapy. Others are certified in electrophysiological testing and measurement. Physical therapy practice varies from state to state according to physical therapy practice acts or state regulations governing physical therapy.

The cornerstones of physical therapist treatment are therapeutic exercise and functional training. In addition to "hands-on" care, physical therapists also educate patients to take care of themselves and to perform certain exercises on their own. Depending on the particular needs of a patient, physical therapists may also "mobilize" or "manipulate" a joint (that is, perform certain types of movements at the end of your range of motion) or massage a muscle to promote proper movement and function. Physical therapists also use methods such as ultrasound (which uses high frequency waves to produce heat), hot packs, and ice. Although other kinds of practitioners will offer some of these treatments as "physical therapy," it's important for you to know that physical therapy can only be provided by qualified physical therapists or by physical therapist assistants, who must complete a 2-year education program and who work only under the direction and supervision of physical therapists.

For more information on a career in physical therapy, visit APTA's Web site at www.apta.org or contact

APTA Public Relations
1111 North Fairfax Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-1488

Tel: (703) 706-3248
Fax: (703) 706-8578

 

WHAT IS A PHYSICAL THERAPIST ASSISTANT?

The physical therapist assistant (PTA) is a technically educated health provider who assists the physical therapist in the provision of physical therapy and may perform physical therapy interventions selected by the supervising physical therapist. The physical therapist assistant works under the direction and supervision of the physical therapist, helping manage conditions such as back and neck injuries, sprains/strains and fractures, arthritis, burns, amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, birth defects, injuries related to work and sports, and others.

WHAT ARE THE EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR BECOMING A PTA?

Physical therapist assistants must complete a two-year education program, typically offered through a community or junior college. Candidates receive an associate's degree upon graduation. The course of study usually includes one year of general education and one year of technical courses on physical therapy procedures and clinical experience. There are 237 accredited physical therapist assistant education programs throughout the country.

WHAT ARE THE LICENSURE REQUIREMENTS FOR BECOMING A PTA?

More than 40 states require physical therapist assistants to be licensed, registered, or certified. States requiring licensure stipulate specific educational and examination criteria.

For more information on a career in physical therapy, visit APTA's Web site at www.apta.org or contact

APTA Public Relations
1111 North Fairfax Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-1488

Tel: (703) 706-3248
Fax: (703) 706-8578

 

WHAT IS A VETERINARIAN?

According to the AVMA (please see their weblink at (http://www.avma.org/communications/brochures/veterinarian/veterinarian_faq.asp ), today's veterinarians are extremely dedicated and willing to work long, difficult hours to save the life of an animal or help solve a public health crisis. Among the personal attributes that contribute to a successful career in veterinary medicine are:

A scientific mind - Individuals who are interested in veterinary medicine should have an inquiring mind and keen powers of observation. Aptitude and interest in the biological sciences are important. Veterinarians must maintain a lifelong interest in scientific learning, and must genuinely like and understand animals.

Good communication skills - Veterinarians should be able to meet, talk, and work well with a variety of people. Compassion is an essential attribute for success, especially for veterinarians working with pet owners who form strong bonds with their pets.

Management experience - Many work environments (e.g., private or corporate clinical practice, governmental agencies, public health programs) require that veterinarians manage other employees. Basic managerial and leadership skills training make these positions much more rewarding.

Education - Students interested in a career in veterinary medicine should perform well in general science and biology in junior high school and pursue a strong science, math, and biology program in high school. Before applying to veterinary college/school, students must successfully complete preveterinary undergraduate course work. Each college/school of veterinary medicine establishes its own preveterinary requirements, but typically these include demonstrating basic language and communication skills, and completion of courses in the social sciences, humanities, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics.

Admission to veterinary school is highly competitive with the number of qualified applicants admitted to veterinary schools varying from year to year. Applicants may be required to take a standardized text (for example, the Graduate Record Examination). There are presently 28 AVMA-accredited colleges/schools of veterinary medicine in the United States, four in Canada, and six in other countries. Each school is regularly evaluated by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association and must maintain the quality of its program to remain accredited.

Most veterinary schools require applicants to submit applications through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS). For information about VMCAS, application requirements, applicant data statistics and other admission resources, visit http://www.aavmc.org/vmcas/vmcas.htm.

After completing the required veterinary medical curriculum (usually over a period of four years), many graduates choose to pursue additional education in one of 20 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialties (surgery, internal medicine, animal behavior, dentistry, ophthalmology, pathology, laboratory animal medicine, preventive medicine, etc.).

For More Information contact the American Veterinary Medical Association

The AVMA Web site, www.avma.org, includes a list of all U.S. veterinary colleges/schools, AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organizations, and additional resources for more information.

The AVMA has produced a video and a CD-ROM, Veterinary Medicine-Dedicated to Service, which profiles veterinarians engaged in a variety of professional activities in different parts of the United States. For more information, call the AVMA Communications Division at 847/248-2862, ext. 6617.

 

WHAT IS A VETERINARY TECHNICIAN?

According to the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (please see their weblink at http://www.navta.net/vettechcareer.htm), veterinary technicians primarily function as professional technical support to veterinarians, biomedical researchers, and other scientists. Through the 1950s, veterinarians trained their own employees, delegating routine tasks and procedures as they saw fit. These on-the-job trained individuals were designated animal assistants, animal attendants, and veterinary assistants and were trained to meet the needs of an individual practice. If people wanted to move to another practice, they would have to start over again being trained in the ways of the new practice.

To meet the technical demands of an expanding veterinary profession and a more mobile population, formal academic programs started appearing in the 1960s. Today there are over 100 veterinary technology programs in the United States that educate veterinary technicians. In order to maintain a standard of excellence these programs are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association. The course of study in these programs entails at least two academic years, leading to an Associate of Science or equivalent degree with four-year Bachelor of Science degrees available at some institutions. During high school, would-be veterinary technicians are encouraged to enroll in college preparatory courses in science, math and English.

In today's fast-paced, high-tech world, veterinarians and other scientists must maintain high standards of animal care. The veterinary technician can be an enormous help. The technician possesses the skills to handle many aspects of patient care, as well as many laboratory procedures.

Technical Responsibilities - Examples of the areas of responsibility qualified veterinary technicians are educated to assume include:

  • Physical Examination and Patient History
  • Client Education
  • Caring for the Hospitalized Patient
  • Administration of Medication and Vaccines
  • Clinical Laboratory Procedures
  • Dental Prophylaxis
  • Radiology
  • Anesthesiology
  • Surgical Assisting
  • Office/ Hospital Management
  • Biomedical Research

In addition to many of the above areas of responsibility, veterinary technicians in research may also: supervise the operation of research colonies and facilities assist in the design and implementation of research projects

Career Opportunities - The first job for about 85% of graduate veterinary technicians is in a private veterinary practice, with companion animal practice leading the list. However, the demand for veterinary technicians in other fields is rapidly growing. Opportunities exist in the following areas:

  • Teaching
  • Military Service
  • Humane Societies
  • Herd Health Managers
  • Industry
  • Biomedical Research
  • Diagnostic Laboratories
  • Zoo/Wildlife Medicine
  • Veterinary Supplies Sales
  • A Regulated Profession

In approximately 40 states and provinces, veterinary technicians are certified, registered, or licensed. Candidates are tested for competency through an examination which may include oral, written, and practical portions. This process is regulated by a State Board of Veterinary Examiners, or the appropriate state agency. State Regulations for Veterinary Technician Registration. Practice acts, legislated by states and provinces, often define the responsibilities of the veterinary technician. These responsibilities and duties are dependent in part on the type of employment the individual chooses.

Veterinary technology offers a challenging career in a relatively new health care profession for mature and motivated individuals. If you are a self starter who likes to work with people and animals, then a career as a veterinary technician may be for you! Click here for the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about veterinary technology or contact NAVTA directly by clicking on the email address below. (navta@navta.net)

 

WHAT IS A VETERINARY ASSISTANT? 

The Veterinary Assistant may have training through a high school, college certificate program, or through a distant learning program over the Internet. Most however are trained on the job by the veterinarian or the veterinary technician. Their role is to assist the veterinarian or the veterinary technician in their daily tasks as well as some basic setting up of equipment and cleaning of key areas in the clinic like the surgery suite. Some may be asked to do kennel cleaning and janitorial work as well. There is no credentialing exam for the veterinary assistant.


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