As a therapist in the military setting, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve your country. Therapists in the military can choose either active duty — helping military men and women post-injury during times of combat — or civilian duty, providing care to wounded warriors and veterans in military treatment facilities. Recent statistics indicate that nearly 1.5 million Americans currently serve in the U.S. armed forces, with 22.7 million veterans — so the need for healthcare professionals in this setting is increasing.
What does the job entail?
Therapists in the military setting can be employed to work with the U.S. Army, Navy or Air Force, depending on the availability of open positions. This work can be challenging, especially if you’re active duty. For example, active duty physical therapists are often the first line of assessment and treatment post injury, and can be credentialed to perform any of the following:
- Examine patients with or without medical referrals
- Order imaging and lab tests to aid in diagnosis
- Prescribe medication
- Refer patient to other doctors and healthcare professionals
In addition, physical therapists serve military men and women in the evaluation and treatment of mental health, related to traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress.
Benefits of working in this setting
Physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in active military assignments are highly respected as a key member of the medical team — both by other medical professionals and soldiers. Soldiers are anxious to get better as quickly as possible and depend on therapists to help regain full function as soon as possible. In addition, to working with highly motivated patients, therapists who choose this setting feel the pride of serving their country through the care of our men and women on the front lines, as well as our country’s veterans: you’ll make a difference not only in the lives of soldiers and their families, but also in our country’s security. Other perks of military employment may include the following:
- Help paying for your education. If you are accepted in the Army’s PT School, you’ll receive paid tuition as you work your way through school as part of the Army program.
- As a working therapy professional, you’ll have the rank of an officer, and some great experience to put on your resume.
- Innovative practice: Therapists who work in the military may be required to perform a wider range of services than civilian physical therapists; the constraints of battlefield medicine often require therapists to improvise. These unique circumstances offer a great deal of independence and a wide range of therapy experience on the job.
- The opportunity to travel. If you work active duty, you’ll be required to travel to where our troops are stationed, so you’ll have a chance to see the world.
Counting the Cost
Before you choose a career in the military, it’s important to consider the challenges faced by healthcare professionals in this setting. The sad realities of war are extensive and sometimes result in extreme physical injuries, so you may be required to treat patients experiencing grief, stress and loss — especially in the VA setting. If you choose to work in the active setting, you yourself may experience difficulties re-entering civilian life. Also, the military is a demanding field, and once you commit to a contract, your work must come before your personal obligations. You will be required to serve for a specified period of time.
Do you have what it takes?
Physical Therapy in the military setting can be an incredibly rewarding career path for the right therapy professional. Just weigh the benefits and drawbacks when making your decision. You can also visit sites such as www.goarmy.com/careers-and-jobs.html for more information.
If you’re looking for your next therapy position, contact PT Solutions
Whatever setting you choose, the physical therapy employment specialists at PT Solutions can help. We’re a staffing service run by therapists for therapists, and we’ll work with you to find a placement that meets your career needs. To learn more, contact PT Solutions today.