Why A Physical Therapy Shortage Is Imminent

Various industries experience labor shortages from time to time. Some of these shortages last longer than others and some are more consequential than others. When restaurants are in need of workers, a shortage can result in early closures and compromised service. When healthcare workers are in short supply, the health and well-being of the nation’s patients may be compromised.

It seems that the physical therapy “side” of the healthcare industry is poised for a serious shortage of providers. There is already a shortage of physical therapy practitioners (PTs) in many areas of the nation. According to data released by the American Physical Therapy Association, the job vacancy rate for physical therapist practitioners in outpatient settings in 2022 was 17%. This scarcity is particularly prevalent in both rural areas and areas with particularly high cost of living considerations. But, as the cost of being trained in physical therapy is starting to significantly outweigh the compensation that a PT tends to make, it is likely that recruiting top talent to this area of healthcare will become increasingly challenging.

Why A Greater Shortage Could Be So Consequential

Physical therapy is a critical component of healthcare that offers numerous benefits, often overlooked until a specific need arises. As an experienced physical therapy practitioner – including those who practice at AmeriWell Clinics – can confirm, seeking physical therapy care is often essential for various reasons, from injury recovery to improving overall physical function.

The primary reason why an even greater shortage of PT specialists could be so consequential is that physical therapy is paramount in the recovery process of many injuries. Therapists work to restore movement, reduce pain, and ensure proper healing. This is particularly vital for sports injuries, workplace injuries, or after surgery to better ensure a full and safe recovery. In many cases, physical therapy can help patients avoid surgery under a variety of circumstances, which can minimize the risks that patients assume when recovering from or otherwise managing a particular condition.

Additionally, therapy techniques help manage pain without the reliance on pain medications, which can be addictive and have side effects. Techniques like manual therapy, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation can provide relief and address the root cause of pain. For individuals struggling with walking, standing, or moving, physical therapy can be a game-changer. Therapists design personalized exercises to strengthen muscles, improve mobility, and enhance balance, which is particularly important for the elderly to prevent falls. Finally, physical therapy plays a significant role in managing chronic health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease. Regular therapy can alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life and can potentially prevent additional challenges down the road.

As physical therapists create tailored care plans based on individual needs and goals, an even greater shortage of these practitioners can potentially affect the quality of patient care that individuals receive. This personalized approach ensures that each patient receives the specific care they require for their particular condition.

Seeking physical therapy care is important for a myriad of reasons. Whether it’s for injury recovery, pain management, improving mobility, or managing chronic conditions, physical therapy offers a holistic and effective approach to maintaining and enhancing physical health. If the industry as a whole doesn’t address the challenges that are contributing to a practitioner shortage, the integrity of care that patients receive could be compromised significantly and their overall well-being could be impacted as a result.