Therapists and Rehabilitation Specialists
Therapists and rehabilitation specialists help people recover from physical changes caused by a medical condition, chronic disease or injury. Types of rehabilitation specialists include physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists.
- Occupational Therapists help patients perform tasks needed for every-day living or working. They work with patients who have physical, mental or developmental disabilities. This includes stroke patients who have lost function on one side of their body, heart or lung disease patients with activity or breathing limitations, or diabetes patients who have had a limb amputated. Occupational therapists help clients find new ways to dress, cook, eat or work. They may visit patients in their home or workplace to find adaptive equipment or teach patients new ways to do things. Occupational therapists have a master’s or doctoral degree and are licensed by their state.
- Physical Therapists (PT’s) help patients when they have an injury, disability or medical condition that limits their ability to move or function. Physical therapists test a patient’s strength and ability to move and create a treatment plan. The goal of treatment is to improve mobility, reduce pain, restore function or prevent further disability. PT’s may treat patients who have had an amputation, stroke, injury or chronic disease. PT’s are required to have a license and may have a 2-year master’s or a 3-year doctoral degree.
- Respiratory Therapists treat and care for patients with breathing problems. They work with all types of patients including premature babies, older people with lung disease, or patients with asthma or emphysema. Respiratory therapists require an associate’s degree, but many have a bachelor’s degree. A license is required in most states.
- Speech Therapists are also called speech-language pathologists. They work with patients who have problems related to speech, communication or swallowing. These problems may be caused by cancer, stroke or brain injury. Speech therapists tailor care plans to each patient’s needs. If a patient has a problem speaking, the therapist may teach them to use communication devices, sign language or alternative ways to communicate. For problems swallowing, they may teach patients to strengthen muscles or new ways to swallow food and liquids without choking. Most states license speech-language pathologists and require a master’s degree.
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