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Physical therapist: What I do and how much I make

Physical therapist Taylor Andrade shares her passion for helping patients regain control of their lives. She explains her role in diagnosing joint dysfunctions and creating treatment plans. Despite financial and healthcare challenges, her goal is to make patients independent and improve their quality of life.

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Video transcript

My name is Taylor Andrade. I'm 26 years old. I'm a doctor of physical therapy, and in my position, physical therapists can make between $55,000 to $70,000 a year. I love being a physical therapist because you get to help somebody take control of their life. As a physical therapist, you're a movement expert. You're looking at how a person moves and how that might affect their ability to do what they want to do. So for me, when a patient can come in and say, "Ah, I went for a walk today, and I didn't have pain," or, "I was able to go pick up my little girl, "and it didn't bother my shoulder or my back," or just to hear one of my elderly people say, "Oh, I went for a walk, and you know, "I hardly had to use my cane," or you know, "I left my cane at home, and I didn't feel scared." Those are always the highlights of my day, and those are the days where I know that I'm meant to be doing what I'm doing. So my main responsibilities as a physical therapist is when a patient comes to see me is I take them through a series of testing to see what different types of joint dysfunctions, maybe tissue restrictions, what is the generator of their pain or their dysfunction. From there, I have to educate the patient on what might be going on with their body. A lot of the times, patients don't come in with maybe a full understanding of why they're experiencing what they're experiencing, and from there, I help to guideline out a treatment plan for them. So typically, that involves manual therapy, which is mobilizing the joints. It's helping to restore movement and dysfunction that may be coming from the body, as well as giving them exercises and a home program to help them take care of themselves at home during the time that they're not seeing me, really giving them the tools to help take care of their life and to manage their symptoms as long as they'll live. During my day, I probably have the same conversation about 19 different times. I ask how the weekend is, what are their plans for the rest of the day, but every patient is just different, and I never feel like it's monotonous because you get to develop your own relationship with these people, and I think that's one of the main things that drew me to physical therapy is that I get to spend half an hour with my patients one on one, talking to them, understanding what it is important to them and why they're here. With some fields, like with MDs, they're so pressured with time. They have so many people they had to take care of, and I've been to the doctor before. You see them for maybe like eight minutes, 10 minutes, and then they have to go on to the next one. So being in physical therapy, I really get to see a patient not only for so much longer but also from start to finish with their care. So when you're dealing with patients and you're dealing with people, you're dealing with a whole different host of personalities. Some patients, you know, you can have frank conversations with, and others, you're dealing with a lot more other aspects of their care. You're dealing with the stress, and you're dealing with the emotions that are coming with not being able to do what they need to do. So having that flexibility in your personality, as well as within how you handle patients with your hands is also important, too. You also have to understand that everybody perceives pain differently. Pain is not something that's necessarily generated by the tissues but that is organized within the brain. So some patients, you can be a little bit more aggressive with their care, and some, you might have to start off a little bit slower with. It's hard sometimes because you have moments where you doubt yourself. You have moments if you're giving them the best possible care, and it takes a lot of self-reflection to be able to understand where you should be going, what is on your responsibility, what is maybe something else that needs to be looked at as far as your patient's care. Financial situations are something that we have to take into consideration with our patients, so patients will come to me, and they have a very high deductible, or they have a very high co-pay, and they have to choose between coming to therapy and paying for groceries or paying for gas. That's a huge burden for the patient to take on, and it's also a factor into their care. Dealing with healthcare has always been a frustration because now in days we're working with plans that only allow a certain amount of visits a year, or we're having third-party authorization companies coming in and saying of those visits they're only allowed to use six right now, and as a physical therapist and as a healthcare professional, this is something we're seeing across the board, across Colorado, across the US right now, and so it's something that is challenging because it's affecting their ability to get better. As a physical therapist, my whole job is to get patients out the door. My goal is to make them as independent as possible and to get them better, and I hope that I never get to see these patients again because they're living a good life. So that does have an effect in my business. So some patients' care is only a few weeks, a few visits, but some of my other patients can be there for three to four months at a time. Thankfully, working with a company like Specialized Physical Therapy, I have a marketing team that is there to help me grow my business, to branch out, and to also grow the company as a whole. So I work with my marketing director, and I've told her that I love working with vestibular patients, so patients with dizziness, and because of that, more of the doctors in my area have been sending me patients that have dizziness disorders. Also, just having patients report back to their doctor about the excellent care that they're having is something to be worth mentioning, as well, as a way to grow your own business.