A Day in the Life of a Physical Therapist

By Olivia Hamilton

Agile North Physical Therapy (Agile North)

The job of a physical therapist is very interesting and unique. To build upon my previous knowledge about this professional field, I conducted an informational interview with physical therapist Dr. Bryan Labell, who has been practicing physical therapy since 1998. Dr. Labell graduated from Penn State and went on to get his doctorate from Massachusetts General Hospital’s Institute of Health Professions. He completed many training programs and internships at hospitals in the Boston area before opening up his own private practice called Agile North

Physical Therapy, located in Danvers, Massachusetts. Dr. Labell explained that his daily tasks include hands-on work with patients demonstrating exercises and conducting mobility tests.

Why Choose Physical Therapy?

Different physical therapists might have a different reason for why they chose their profession, but most have one thing in common: the desire and passion to help people.

To be a physical therapist, you must be passionate about the job. Dr. Labell explains that one of the reasons he chose physical therapy was because of his passion for the field. He also believes it is the best way to spend quality time and have meaningful relationships with his patients while watching them improve.

I have been a patient at Agile North Physical Therapy and have seen the passion that Dr. Labell and his assistants have for their jobs. They want the best for each and every patient and they helped me to find my passion for this field. What I most appreciate about Agile North is the friendly and welcoming environment that the team creates for the patients.

Job Requirements

The job requirements to be a physical therapist can vary from practice to practice. The Occupational Outlook Handbook states that most entry-level jobs require or highly prefer the following:

  • Doctorate in physical therapy
  • Licensed physical therapist (required)
    • Requirements for a license varies for every state
    • All include passing a national exam
  • Completed residency experience (preferred)

Getting on Track

Starting in college, do research and take prerequisite courses for physical therapy graduate programs. Dr. Labell said he took the prerequisites for a science major and minored in exercise and sport science. Most physical therapy graduate programs require anatomy, physiology, and biology. Other preferred areas include chemistry, physics, and psychology.

Helpful Skills to Have

  • Passion
  • Motivation
  • Good Time Management
  • Good Communication Skills

These skills are helpful in the field of physical therapy because having good time management and strong communication skills will make the work of a physical therapist easier and more enjoyable. In order to enjoy the career, you must be passionate about helping others to achieve their goals.

Salary Range

The salary of a physical therapist varies widely. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the average salary working in hospitals and offices of occupational and speech therapists was around $88,000 in 2018.

  • A physical therapist working in a residential care facility makes around $94,000
  • A physical therapist working in a private practice makes around $90,000

Writing Responsibilities of a Physical Therapist

Physical Therapy Patient Report (Physical Therapy Office Forms)

While physical therapy consists of more hands-on work, there is still some writing done daily. The most frequent writing throughout the day is note taking. Physical therapists are constantly jotting down small notes and details on patient charts regarding improvements. Other types of writing that physical therapists encounter include writing patient reports and corresponding over email with patients, doctors, insurance companies, and other staff members. Dr. Labell said that he spends around 15-25% of his time writing. According to the Elon Poll results, around 32% of college graduates say that they write reports for their profession weekly and 70% say they write emails weekly. These are the two types of writing most commonly found in the physical therapy field.

Writing Challenges

Physical therapy consists of writing a lot of patient reports and corresponding with doctors and insurance companies through email. When I asked Dr. Labell to explain the writing challenges he faces, he said there aren’t any that he could think of. He said that because he had so much practice through internships, writing patient reports was never really a challenge for him personally. However, one challenge new physical therapists may face is encountering types of writing that they have no previous experience in. This corresponds to the results of the Elon Poll which says that 20% of college graduates’ biggest writing challenge is when they encounter a genre of writing they have previously never encountered.

Positive and Rewarding Aspects

There are many rewarding aspects of this profession because patients are constantly reaching and exceeding their goals of healing an injury or returning to a sport. Dr. Labell says that all improvements big and small are rewarding because he gets to see his work change patients’ lives. To hear about rewarding stories specific to Dr. Labell’s practice, visit Agile North’s website and click on “Success Stories.”

Challenging Aspects

One of the main challenges that physical therapists face is coaching each patient every day to reach their best. Not all patients are motivated! When a patient comes in unwillingly, it is the job of the physical therapist to motivate them, which is not always easy.

Another challenge of a physical therapist is constantly being on their feet. Throughout the day, there is little down time to sit and relax. Physical therapists are constantly moving around working one-on-one with each patient to ensure the maximum success. If you want to learn more about the daily routines of a physical therapist, including rewards and challenges, watch Rachel Chavez’s Physical Therapist – Day in the Life video. Rachel Chavez is a physical therapist for the County of San Diego’s Health & Human Services. In the video, she describes some of the physically challenging aspects of her work.

Physical therapy is a great career option for those who have interest in science and health fields and enjoy helping others!


This post is part of a series on writing in the professions. Posts were written by students in Dr. Jessie L. Moore’s fall 2019 Writing: Argument & Inquiry class and include research from the June 2019 Center for Engaged Learning/Elon Poll survey of college graduates, age 18-34, High Impact Undergraduate Experiences and How They Matter Now.

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