Home Health PT is it for you?

When most people picture a home health physical therapist, they typically see an old, drained, often fed up therapist on the tail end of his or her career ready for retirement. Some may even see someone with little to no skills, maybe an introvert, maybe someone who is not a team player. Hey, I do not blame you at all for thinking this way. After all I use to be one of those very people with a misguided view of Homehealth physical therapists.

At the tender age of 13 while watching a cricket match with my family, one of my favorite players got injured and I saw a gentleman with a huge bag running out to the field to take care of him. The commentators said that he was a physiotherapist. Then and there I shouted to my family that is what I am going to become. Fast forward a few years later and I arrive to the United States to pursue my degree in Physical Therapy.

During my first semester of PT school, one professor asked each of us which setting we’d desire to work in. I said to him, “Forget everything else, sports medicine is where it’s all at.” He simply smiled and informed my advisor at the time to place me in clinical rotations that were not sports medicine related. At the time I was pissed but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Although I never completed a homehealth rotation during my time in PT school, being in the hospital, being in a skilled nursing facility, working with kids, patients with TBIs (Traumatic Brain Injuries) opened my eyes to the diversity of my beloved profession.

After graduation from PT school, I went to work in an outpatient Orthopaedic clinic. On a daily basis I was knee deep in knees, hips, shoulders and ankle injuries, seeing on average over 20 patients a day. When some patients would come in for evaluations with such poor range of motion and strength post total replacement even though they received home health PT I would get really upset and disgusted. I would ask patients in those situations what kind of therapy did they receive. From their responses I was getting the urge to get involved in home health and change its perception. I resigned my job at the outpatient clinic and started a career in home health.

Is home health the setting for you? Maybe…maybe not. There are many reasons you should consider it!

1. You will be working with a dream team…

When I thought I was going to be working alone, I soon realized I was part of a dream team with the patient as the captain. I had to work in conjunction with the patient’s physician, nurse, occupational therapist, maybe speech language pathologist, maybe social worker and also maybe an aide and the patient’s family/caregivers. I had to master effective and timely communication for the patient to receive the best possible care and return to prior level of independence. Team work makes the dream work and your contribution as a clinician is highly valued and appreciated in this setting. There is mentorship and clinical guidance available. You get to learn about the other professions and learn tricks to improve your patient’s care holistically.

2. You must be energetic…

As a home health therapist you have to have a lot of energy as a lot of the day is spent driving from home to home, treating patients and documenting. Most agencies reimburse you for mileage. Some pay you a salary, others pay you per visit and visit type. You have to be a quick and critical thinker, be innovative as we call it a #MacGyverPT. You have to be personable, upbeat, pleasant, you have to be empathetic and respectful as you are in the patient’s home not your clinic. Home health is definitely not the setting for any licensed body to treat a body. In this setting you are seen and treated as an expert.

3. It offers the best flexibility…

I am still young and more and more #freshPTs are getting into home health because of the flexibility it offers. You get to set your own schedule. You can start as early or as late as you want. You choose the areas you want to see clients and best of all, you see a variety of conditions and with a variety of people. It never ever gets boring.

4. It pays well…

A lot of #DPTstudents leave school complaining of student debt. I feel their pain. In home health a clinician is paid well for the services rendered compared to outpatient and acute care settings. There are agencies who offer upward mobility by allowing physical therapists to become clinical managers and supervisors.

5. You get to witness miracles…

I’ve had the privilege of seeing so many miracles as a home health PT that I did not get in an outpatient setting. In my featured photo is a patient I worked with after she was discharged from acute care being involved in a motor vehicle accident. She was wheelchair dependent when I first saw her. This young lady was a recent speech language pathologist graduate and full of life. I was driven as a young therapist to make sure she regained as much function as possible. The first day we walked outside with a cane, I told her that soon she will be off the cane and we will do a 5k together. We did!

House calls are back in style. Many patients don’t want the hassle of being in traffic, looking for a parking space, shivering in the cold, paying for a baby-sitter, paying for a taxi, losing valuable time away from work and home. Home Health offers them just that. So if you want to be the traditionalist home health PT or a mobile PT, this is indeed the setting for you.


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