What does a home health physical therapist do?

Caring for communities

Sometimes an injury, like tearing your ACL playing high school football, can change the trajectory of your life. That’s what happened with Zack, a home health physical therapist at Enhabit Home Health & Hospice.

“I did physical therapy both before and after surgery,” he said. “And after going through recovery, I actually did my senior project on physical therapy and determined at that point it’s what I wanted to do with my life. My physical therapists helped me get better so I wanted to do the same for others.”

Home health physicial therapist Zack

Zack E., PT

What is a home health physical therapist?

Similar to physical therapists in other environments, home health physical therapists are specialists in increasing function and mobility. Providing one-on-one care to wherever patients call home, their treatments enable patients to move better, experience fewer falls and maintain a better quality of life.

When patients can receive physical therapy at home, they don’t have to worry about traveling to a clinical setting or rehabilitation facility. Instead, they can focus on what matters most to their recovery.

At Enhabit, our home health physical therapists serve as a critical component of the care journey. This home health physical therapist is helping an older woman lift weights out straight in front of her.

What does a home health physical therapist do?

At Enhabit, our home health physical therapists serve as a critical component of the care journey. They improve and restore the physical function and mobility levels of patients via a person-centered, individualized approach.

Home health physical therapists:
  • Identify gait deviations and retrain poor patterns
  • Teach safety awareness when ambulating and transferring
  • Provide pain interventions using modalities or corrected movements
  • Address complications of dizziness or lack of balance
  • Develop strengthening programs
  • Maximize mobility after surgery
  • Recommend and instruct the use of assistive devices
  • Evaluate home environments and suggest modifications

Providing care in a home environment is unique and can even be beneficial to the patient’s care journey, according to Zack.

Physical therapy is important in the home because you’re able to directly see the patient’s obstacles and difficulties,” he said. “In an outpatient setting, you just talk to somebody about the troubles they may be having in their home. With our patients who are homebound, we see exactly what they are talking about and what the problem is. Then, we can address the issue specifically for that patient.”

What is it like to be a home health physical therapist?

Instead of spending their workday in a building, home health physical therapists like Zack get out on the road, traveling from home to home and seeing an average of six patients a day.

“My days consist of driving, going to patient’s houses and doing evaluations, starts of care, reassessments, recertifications and discharges,” he said. “I also spend time communicating with my physical therapy assistants and determining the best way patients can continue to progress,” he said.

And while home health physical therapists are very busy going from patient to patient, that’s the part of it that Zack loves.

“I love that every day is different. No matter how much you think you know what’s going to happen in that day, you’re always in for a surprise. There is just a high degree of variability whenever you go to see patients in their homes that you don’t get when they are in a facility. That’s what keeps the job exciting and different.”

Making a big impact on patients’ quality of life

Whenever someone loses the ability to move freely around their home, it’s no surprise this can drastically affect their quality of life. Zack gets the opportunity to help patients with these difficulties gain back the life they had before their illness or condition.

After meeting a patient who had gastrointestinal surgery and was completely bedbound, Zack and his Enhabit team were able to turn her life around.

“This patient was very weak, which was unexpected after having that type of surgery,” he said. “She was unable to transfer, needed a lot of family help and would get down and depressed. But part of our job is to try to build patients up, instill confidence and get them on a program they can do on their own to try to improve their functional abilities.”

Months went by of putting in the work from both the patient and the therapist side. And after the patient finished her care with Enhabit, Zack received an unexpected message.

“She sent me a text message that said she was back driving and working again just months after I last saw her,” he said. “When I initially walked in to see that patient, I didn’t expect that to happen. But when the work gets put in by the therapist and the patient, a lot of great things are possible.

“That’s why I got into doing this kind of work – to help people get better and see people be able to do the things they want to do and get back to their life as they envisioned it.”

How can I start my career in home health?

There are many benefits that come along with choosing a career in home health care. If you are interested in helping patients increase function, mobility and independence, a career in home health physical therapy might be for you.

“If you desire to help people, I think physical therapy is a good career choice,” Zack said. “It is a wonderful field and the future looks great. I think there is going to be more utilization of physical therapists as the population ages so the outlook is bright.”

The path to becoming a home health physical therapist is the same as being a physical therapist in any other environment.

You must first earn a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, biology, kinesiology or a related field. After getting a bachelor’s degree, you will need to earn a doctor of physical therapy degree from a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education-accredited program. Then, you will need to pass a state licensure exam.

Although there is a lot of schooling involved, Zack is confident that it is worth it in the end.

“If I had to do it over again, I would go through all seven years of school again and do everything completely the same,” he said. “Physical therapy, and particularly home health physical therapy, is a great field.”

If you are interested in pursuing your home health physical therapy career at Enhabit, you must be a graduate of an approved school of physical therapy and licensed as a physical therapist in the state in which you currently practice.

To learn more about home health career opportunities at Enhabit, search our open career opportunities near you or sign up for job alerts by texting “CARE” to 98199.

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