Job Family: Health Care Practitioners Physical and Occupational Therapy Specialists
Services Offering this Occupation
Army  | Navy  | Air Force

Photo 1: Therapist checks patient's range of motion. Photo 2:
Therapist inspects patient's knee.

Short Description
Physical and occupational therapy consists of treatment and exercise for patients disabled by illness or injury. Physical and occupational therapy specialists assist in administering treatment aimed at helping disabled patients regain strength and mobility and preparing them to return to work.


What They Do
Physical and occupational therapy specialists in the military perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Test and interview patients to determine their physical and mental abilities
  • Assist physical and occupational therapists in planning therapy programs and exercise schedules
  • Fit artificial limbs (prostheses) and train patients in their use
  • Provide massages and heat treatments to patients
  • Teach patients new mobility skills
  • Set up and maintain therapeutic equipment such as exercise machines and whirlpools

Helpful Attributes
Helpful school subjects include general science, biology, physiology, and psychology. Helpful attributes include:
  • Ability to communicate effectively
  • Interest in working with and helping people
  • Patience to work with people whose injuries heal slowly

Training Provided
Job training consists of classroom instruction, including practice in applying therapy techniques. Further training occurs on the job and through advanced courses. Course content typically includes:
  • Anatomy, physiology, and psychology (the study of the body, body functions, and the mind)
  • Methods of therapy, including massage, electric therapy, and radiation therapy
  • Handling and positioning of patients
  • Principles of rehabilitation

Work Environment
Therapy specialists work in hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers.


Civilian Counterparts
Civilian therapy specialists work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, schools, and community health centers. They perform duties similar to military therapy specialists. Civilian therapy specialists often specialize in treating a particular type of patient, such as children, the severely disabled, the elderly, or those who have lost arms or legs (amputees).

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