BlogCareersWhat Does a Physiotherapist Do?

What Does a Physiotherapist Do?

Would you describe yourself as a ‘people person’? Are you interested in helping others in a hands on way? Physiotherapy may be the career for you!

In this article, we’ll go through pathways into the industry, roles and responsibilities of a physiotherapist, the future growth of this career and more.

Let’s get to know someone in the industry!

Meet Josh
What is a Physiotherapist?
Steps to Becoming a Physiotherapist
Future Outlook
Best Thing & Worst Thing
Advice for Aspiring Physiotherapists

Meet Josh

Josh is currently a physiotherapist in a hospital (also referred to as the public sector).

How did you end up in this role?

To get into this role, Josh did the following:

  1. Got above a credit average for his GPA by the end of fourth year to be eligible
  2. Applied for the Physiotherapy Allocation Program
  3. Put down his preferences for which hospital he wanted to work in, in the order of which he wanted to work — this requires answering a series of questions which are marked and applicants are ranked according to who gives the best responses
  4. If you score well enough, you may be offered an interview at one of your chosen hospitals — the interviews are competitive so not everyone who gets offered an interview will get a position (so prepare well for them!)
  5. If you are successful in the interview, you will be offered a 12-month contract at the hospital you interviewed for

Studies and Experience

Josh studied a Bachelor of Physiotherapy at university!

As part of his course, he had five weeks of placement in the third year of his degree at Nepean Hospital. He and his cohort then did 20 consecutive weeks of placement in fourth year, spending five weeks in each different area of practice. 

What made you want to work in this industry? 

Physiotherapist - Interviewee Quote

What is a Physiotherapist?

Physiotherapy is a form of healthcare. It involves treating patients to reduce pain, improve movement and coordination, strengthen muscles and improve respiratory function. 

Physiotherapists use a range of different equipment and exercises, including massage and hydrotherapy, to help patients! Often, physios consult other healthcare professionals about patients’ needs. 

Roles and Responsibilities 

Key roles for physios include: 

    • Administering tests on patients to identify and assess any physical problems 
    • Designing treatment programs for these patients and then treating patients as needed
    • Continually monitoring change in patients’ health and adapting treatments as needed
    • Consulting with other health professionals to come up with the best treatment plans 
    • Helping patients and their families to continue treatment at home (this may involve specific exercise, rest, or monitoring injuries)
    • Recording all treatments given to patients
    • Creating preventative health programs to stop individuals or groups from needing treatment 

Which industries can physiotherapy be found in?

There are several types of physio practices available. Some of these include:

Type of PracticeDescription
Private PracticeThis is what most of us think of when we consider physiotherapy. This often involves treating sport injuries and seeing regular patients.
RehabilitationCan help patients who have had significant surgery or severe accidents. This is often a longer form of treatment which helps people function as normally as possible.
Public practice Also known as working in a hospital, this involves treating patients across many different wards. Sometimes, physios help people recover after surgery. Other times, they treat people who have endured a brain injury or are suffering from cardiovascular issues.

At the start of a typical day working in a hospital, physios will read up on patients notes to find out who needs treatments for the day and if any medical complications have happened over night. 

There is a prioritisation system so each physio knows who they need to treat for the day. 

For the rest of the day, physios are out seeing patients in different wards. They must document all treatments. Before leaving for the day, each physio finalises their patient notes and enters any important information into a specialised system for other workers to see. 

What jobs do people sometimes confuse this with?

Sometimes, physiotherapy is confused with occupational therapy. These professions often work together, but they are distinct in their functions!

A physio works specifically on improving the physical movement and function of a patient’s body. An occupational therapist helps patients perform and adapt to daily tasks, despite impairment. 

Characteristics and Qualities

Physiotherapist - Skills

There are a number of skills that physiotherapists are characterised by. You’ll find that physios will need to have a high level of oral expression in order to communicate clearly with patients!

They’ll also need to have inductive reasoning, which requires using lots of detailed information to come up with solutions. Oral comprehension is another quality that phyios should have in order to listen and understand what it being told to them.

Deductive reasoning and problem spotting are other skills needed in order to solve problems and notice if something is likely to go wrong!

Steps to Becoming a Physiotherapist 

What should you study?

You can become a physio through studying an undergraduate degree. 

Many universities offer a Bachelor of Physiotherapy or a Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy). You can find a list of NSW courses here!

You can also check out what it’s like to study a Bachelor of Physiotherapy at WSU!

Graduates should also register with a body like the Australian Physiotherapy Association for support.

How long does it take to become a Physiotherapist?

The average physiotherapy degree is four years in length and involves at least 20 weeks of placement. This can vary slightly between different universities.

Industry Knowledge

An undergraduate degree will teach you most things you need to know about practicing as a physiotherapist. 

Many physios in public practice now use a system called PowerChart to document treatment notes. 

Physios also need to have good reading comprehension, be active listeners and have great bedside manner.

What will this career look like in the future?

How in-demand is this career?

According to JobOutlook, physiotherapy has a very high growth rate. 

Though public practice is particularly hard to find employment in, there’s a lot of opportunity to work in private practice.

Are there opportunities to grow or specialise?

Physios may also choose to specialise in a specific area, like sport or women’s health. JobOutlook suggests that this can increase chances for employment!

Salary

Annual SalaryFuture GrowthSkill Level Rating
$75,000+Very strong over the next 5 yearsVery high skill

The Future of this Industry

Physiotherapists are increasingly important in Australia.

As business grows, many physios open up private practices whilst still young in their career! The average age for doing so is 35. 

While it is not a job that can be done from home, there is opportunity to travel as a physio. Many people work regionally or travel to different practices. 

Best Thing & Worst Thing

What do you enjoy most about this job?

Josh said, “The best thing about being a physio is when you get a patient and you can see the change you’ve been able to make… It is great when patients are motivated and want to work with you to improve.” 

What do you feel is the worst part of this job?

Josh said that one of the hardest parts is when, “In the hospital system you often work with patients who present with very serious illnesses and/or complex social situations. It can be tricky to process when you’re starting as a new graduate, but if you have a good support network and team to work with, these medical presentations provide very positive learning experiences.

Advice for Aspiring Physiotherapists 

What do you wish you had known before you started working in this career?

It is highly, highly competitive,” Josh explained. 

As a popular university degree, the ATAR requirements for most courses are in the high 90s. After university, it can also be challenging to find a job amidst other graduates. 

However, physio is a very rewarding career path if you are passionate about health and welfare!

Why should people consider taking on this career?

If you enjoy helping people, are motivated and active, then you could be brilliantly suited to being a physiotherapist! 

Physios generally have an interest in health science and want to see their patients improve through strategic treatment. 

Job Flexibility 

Because it is such a hands on job, physiotherapy doesn’t offer a lot of flexibility in regards to working from home. 

Most physios also work the average 9-5, with slight variation. However, physios who work in private practice may choose to start and finish early, or begin later in the day and work into the evening. 

What is the workplace culture like?

According to JobOutlook, most physios value face-to-face discussion with their colleagues, where they can develop great teamwork!

Many private practices are also small in size, with only 2 to 10 physios working. This means you can get to know your teammates very closely. 


Lucinda Garbutt-Young hopes to one day be writing for a big-shot newspaper… or maybe just for a friendly magazine in the arts sector. Right now, she is enjoying studying a Bachelor of Public Communication (Public Relations and Journalism) at UTS while she writes on the side. She also loves making coffees for people in her job as a barista, and loves nothing more than a sun shower.

 

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