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Top personality traits for physical therapists

CareerBuilder | October 18, 2020

physical therapist traits

Find out if your personality makes you a good fit for a career in physical therapy.

Have you ever noticed that people from all walks of life – be they family, friends, co-workers, cashiers or just strangers on the street – are very comfortable speaking with you about their personal matters? If you have, you likely possess a natural flair for listening and a genuine concern for others – traits that would make you a great physical therapist.

To find out if a career in physical therapy may be right for you, compare your own personality to these traits commonly found in successful physical and occupational therapists:

Cool and determined

Patients often endure slow recovery processes over long periods of time, and in some cases, treatment can be difficult or painful. Often patients will become frustrated, tired and resistant to therapy, and feel like giving up. It’s the physical therapist’s job to find effective ways to keep patients motivated to complete their therapy. The best physical therapists know how to lead with a delicate blend of patience, encouragement and resolve. Therefore, physical therapists and occupational therapists must possess composure and a strong will to persevere as essential components to effective therapy.

Supportive and compassionate

Therapists experience many personal, heart-to-heart moments with patients who may feel vulnerable or embarrassed during the recovery period. Part of the therapist's job is to temper the patient's nerves, often through demonstrating the behavior necessary to make it through therapy. Individuals who maintain control of difficult sessions with empathy, tenderness and a sense of humor are among the most successful therapists.

Confident and resilient

Patients may, at times, take their aggressions out on a therapist, which is why tolerance and a thick skin are also essential traits in physical therapy. Therapy can be emotionally taxing, not only on the patients, but on the therapists and therapy assistants as well.

When progress is slow, stress mounts, which can spill over into a therapist's personal life. Practitioners must maintain their own mental and psychological well-being in order to avoid the negative effects of stress.

Fit and health-conscious

A career in physical therapy is a relatively active one. Physical therapists must demonstrate movement techniques and assist patients with physical movements during treatment. These professionals may also need to possess the strength to physically support or move patients without causing injury to the patient or themselves.

To make it through a physically active day, therapists must perform regular conditioning and strength-building exercises, and sustain the flexibility needed to support a multitude of patient body types. Most PTs practice what they preach to help be an effective role model for patients, so rehab professionals often live a healthy lifestyle.

Sociable and cooperative

The bulk of a physical therapist’s responsibilities involve interacting with others, so they tend to be friendly, personable and generally enjoy people. Great physical therapists should be capable of interacting with patients of all ages and from a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds. Therapists also must extend service and communication to the patient's family or caretakers, as well as other health care providers. Friendly people who function well in a spirit of collaboration are well suited for a therapy practice.

Of course, there’s a lot more to becoming a physical therapist – attaining a physical therapy degree, for starters – but having the right kind of personality for the job is a great start.

Other essential healthcare and medical-support jobs:

Pharmacy Technician
Medical Assistant
Home Health
Medical Billing and Coding
MRI Technologist
Dental Assistant
Certified Nursing Assistant CNA
Healthcare administrator

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