3 Ways Coronavirus Has Impacted Physical Therapy Jobs

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Physical therapy took a hit, like everything else, when states began locking down to control the spread of coronavirus. Offices were closed and workers furloughed. In some cases, private practice owners were forced to lay off staff because there was not enough revenue to pay them. So where are we now?

Things are starting to rebound now that states are gradually reopening. Still, some of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will continue to be felt for a long time. Such is the case in physical therapy. An industry well known for doing things a certain way prior to the pandemic will have to do things a bit differently moving forward.

Below are three ways coronavirus has impacted physical therapy jobs, based on an LI Herald piece explaining how one New York physical therapist has weathered the crisis:

1. Lighter Patient Loads

Even before lockdowns began in earnest, physical therapists began seeing a slight reduction in patient loads as people expressed fear of coming in for treatment. They were so afraid of catching the virus that they decided to forgo previously scheduled visits.

Patient loads dropped off dramatically when the lockdowns began. In some states, physical therapist jobs were considered non-essential, meaning no patients were being seen in the office at all. In those states where they were considered essential, convincing patients to come into the office was no easy task.

The fear remains even as states begin reopening. Plenty of patients have expressed interest in returning to the office once this is all over, but no one knows when that will be. Physical therapists must adjust to lighter patient loads for the foreseeable future.

2. New Telehealth Opportunities

Hand-in-hand with lighter patient loads are more telehealth opportunities for physical therapists. Long known as a form of medicine that requires close contact between therapist and patient, physical therapy has barely looked at telehealth over the years. Now they have no choice but to go there.

What they have discovered about telehealth could prove transformational to physical therapy jobs. Therapists have discovered that they do not necessarily need to see every patient, every week. Videoconferencing will suffice in many instances in which the therapist just needs to check on patient progress.

Therapists can demonstrate new exercises through videoconferencing. They can answer questions and explain goals. Most of what can be accomplished in follow-up visits can also be accomplished remotely. According to Health Jobs Nationwide, telehealth’s capabilities could give rise to a whole new category of therapy jobs.

3. Greater Emphasis on Hygiene

Maintaining proper hygiene has never been a question for physical therapy offices. However, the physical therapy environment is a far cry from the primary care office or hospital emergency department. Thus, hygiene requirements for therapy environments are noticeably different.

Coronavirus has changed that to some extent. Physical therapists now must make a greater effort to clean and disinfect their therapy tables, equipment, etc. Therapists are now wearing face masks and gloves at bare minimum. Some are donning full PPE gear.

The need for more comprehensive hygiene is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Even after coronavirus is but a memory, there is a good chance that patients will be extra cautious. They will demand that standards of hygiene remain high.

Our entire world has been turned upside down by coronavirus. Whether or not the drastic changes brought about by the pandemic are necessary remains a matter of debate. But either way, it is what it is. Everything in healthcare will look different moving forward. That includes physical therapy jobs in hospitals, private practices, and public health clinics.

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