Are you interested in becoming a pediatric therapist? Physical, Occupational, or Speech Therapists who work in pediatric settings have a special role in the development or healing of children with injuries, developmental delays or chronic conditions that affect mobility or language development. Pediatric employment settings can include inpatient (children’s hospitals), outpatient (specialty clinics), early childhood services as well as traditional school settings, and home health. The work you do with your patients can help to shape their entire lives. That can be a lot of pressure! Do you have what it takes?
Important qualities of a pediatric PT
When working with children, you’ll need personal characteristics that are somewhat different than those of Therapists in other specialties. That’s because children require a different style of communication than adults. The pediatric setting requires a therapist to be part therapist, part teacher, and part counselor! Great pediatric therapists need the following qualities and abilities:
- As is true with any career, passion for your job is very important. It will motivate you to be excellent at what you do. Perhaps you’ve been inspired by a sibling with a chronic condition or you’ve volunteered in the past with a special needs day camp. Whatever your reason for entering this branch of the therapy profession, your love of children and joy in their progress are a requirement. When you enjoy what you’re doing, it will show through in your work.
- A pediatric therapist is a very important part of a child’s care team and has a big influence on his or her future. You may need to handle temper tantrums or difficult parents, revise treatment plans many times to find the one that works best, weather slow progress or even unfortunate circumstances. Therapists who work with children must learn to be strong and keep their emotions under control.
- What works for one child may not work for another. Your creativity will help you devise treatment plans and communication strategies that account for children’s often short attention spans. Combining play and therapy into effective activities that meet each child’s unique needs requires an enjoyment of improvising and thinking outside the box.
- Children can become angry and frustrated with their condition or lack of progress with their treatment. They may react in ways that seem irrational to adults. A great pediatric PT must be supportive and encouraging whether a patient has had a good day at therapy, or a not-so-good day.
- Strict, yet gentle approach. As a pediatric PT, you’ll need to find a healthy balance between friend and instructor. Your patients will need to like and trust you. But to help them improve, you will need to motivate a child to attempt tasks that are physically difficult at first.
- Communication with adults, as well as children. As a pediatric PT, you’ll be educating your patient’s caregivers and parents much as your patient. Great communication skills are a must.
- It means a lot to parents, as well as patients, when you treat them as a person and not just as an appointment. Compassion requires taking time to understand of your patients’ and their caregivers’ unique situation. Compassion avoids judgment and condemnation so that true love and acceptance can grow.
Is pediatric physical therapy the path for you?
If so, you can start on your way towards a career in pediatric therapy by making some smart career choices. After you have completed your general degree and obtained your license, you can take professional development classes towards a Board Certification or Specialty Certification in pediatrics. The following links will give you a roadmap to specializing in this field:
Physical Therapy: Section on Pediatrics of the APTA
Occupational Therapy: Board Certification in Pediatrics
Speech Language Pathology: American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders
You can also explore different educational opportunities as part of your continuing education plan.
Are you looking to expand your job portfolio?
If you’re interested in an exciting new position as a pediatric PT, or just a new PT job in general, myPTsolutions can help. We place physical therapists with travel positions across the country. To learn more about the positions we currently have available, contact a myPTsolutions recruiter today.