Physiotherapy: Rising demand for physiotherapists

The general perception is that physiotherapists are concerned only with massage and exercise. But that is not all there is to this profession.

Did you always want to be a doctor but haven’t been able to clear the medical college entrance examination? Don’t despair, you can become a doctor of physiotherapy which is increasingly becoming an attractive option. There is a great —and rising — demand for physiotherapists with all kinds of patients, including those recovering from surgery and accidents and those suffering from chronic diseases like arthritis, needing their services. Even sports icons, pop stars, fashion models, and sedentary executives are taking to physiotherapy to keep fit and knock themselves into shape.

The general perception is that physiotherapists are concerned only with massage and exercise. But thats not all there is to this profession.

Contemporary physiotherapists manage the not inconsiderable task of restoring, maintaining, and promoting the overall health and fitness of growing segments of the population. Conditions ranging from back pain to heart disease, arthritis to paraplegia (paralysis of legs), fractures and amputations, cervical spondylosis to frozen shoulder, head injury, and strokes are increasingly being treated by physiotherapists. A physician perhaps restores a patients health but its the physiotherapist who improves the quality of his/her life. STUDY PROGRAMMES. Bachelor and diploma courses in physiotherapy are offered by around 18 colleges recognised by the All India Physiotherapists Association. The four-year graduate degree programme is followed by a six-month internship. Eligibility is Plus Two or equivalent with a 50 percent average in physics, chemistry, and biology, and a pass in English. The physiotherapy programme includes familiarisation with physiology, anatomy, physics, and theory and practice of body movement, electrotherapy, and manipulative procedures. The syllabus also includes a study of medical and surgical conditions for which physiotherapy may be used.

The Rehabilitation Council of India, New Delhi, conducts a joint entrance examination for admission to the first year of the professional programme in physiotherapy and occupational therapy available at the following institutes: National Institute for the Orthopedically Handicapped, Kolkata, and National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research, Cuttack. The joint entrance examination is usually advertised in February and the examination is held in May/June. The other medical colleges and institutes which offer similar courses are:

University of Madras, Chennai
School of Physiotherapy, Parel, Mumbai
L.T. Medical College, Sion
Nair Hospital College, Mumbai
Christian Medical College, Vellore
Government Medical College, Chennai
Apollo College of Physiotherapy, Hyderabad
Kasturba Medical College, Manipal

A physiotherapist uses natural physical exercises and movements (sometimes in water), weights, electrotherapy, short wave diathermy, ultraviolet light and massage to treat the sick, partially paralysed, and convalescent. Sometimes physios treat patients under the direction of doctors or they may evolve their own treatment methodologies.

There are only 5,000 qualified physiotherapists in India whereas according to the World Health Organization (WHO) there should be one for every 10,000 citizens. Consequently, according to WHO norms there is a shortage of 95,000 physiotherapists in India!

Considering this employment and career prospects are excellent for physiotherapists. They are much needed in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, rehabilitation centres for the handicapped, schools for the mentally challenged and physically disabled children, health institutions, and defence medical establishments. In fact demand exceeds supply as the medical care industry is fast expanding and will continue to do so. Physiotherapists also have ample scope for private practice and those with adequate capital can establish their own clinics.

The initial remuneration of physiotherapists in government hospitals ranges between Rs.8,000–12,000. Private and corporate-funded hospitals usually start at Rs.15,000 and go up to Rs.20,000 per month. After gaining experience for about five-six years, most physiotherapists start their own practice and can earn anything between Rs.200 to Rs.400 per visit.

The Indian Association of Physiotherapists (IAP), a member of the World Confederation of Physical Therapy (WCPT), has passed a resolution conferring the title of ‘doctor on graduate and postgraduate physiotherapists.

Physiotherapy is one of the most challenging and satisfying professions to be in as it offers the satisfaction of seeing your patient gradually becoming integrated into social and vocational life and leaving his or her pain behind,” says Dr. Varsha Chainani, a therapist currently working at Mumbais well-known Jaslok Hospital.

According to Chainani, most people are still not clear about the benefits of physiotherapy and associate it with exercises for strengthening muscles and joints. Physiotherapy is the most important part of the healthcare delivery system as it makes patients mobile. Doctors use our services both before and after surgery. Previously, physiotherapy didnt have the status which it now has. Many women are attracted to this profession,” she says.

Happy about her career choice, Chainani claims that a physios work is not as stressful as that of a doctor or a surgeon. Another plus point is that you see results fast, particularly in ortho and neuro cases. We give active therapy and spend time with our patients, so they have a lot of confidence in us

Chainani is optimistic about the future of this profession. As awareness is increasing, a growing number of youngsters are opting for it. Physiotherapy is expected to be among the fastest growing occupations in the next few years,” she predicts.

Rising demand for physiotherapists

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