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U.S. Needs PTs Now!
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By Crispin R. Aranda, Immigrant Visa Center

Based on current trends, demand for PT services will outpace the supply of physical therapists (PTs). Shortages are expected to increase for all 50 states through 2030.

By 2030, the number of states receiving below-average grades for their PT shortages will increase from 12 to 48. States in the Northeast are projected to have the smallest shortages, whereas states in the south and west are projected to have the largest shortages.

These are some of the findings by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in a report issued early this year published by Elsevier Inc.

“The forecast model used to project PT job supply and demand accounted for changes in age and population size on the basis of estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau for each of the 50 states. PT shortages were assigned letter grades on the basis of shortage ratios (difference between demand and supply per 10,000 people) to evaluate PT shortages and describe the changing PT workforce in each state.”

Immigrant Visa Center reports increased queries from U.S. Employers about qualified Filipino PTs and OTs who are qualified to take the US PT licensure exam – NPTE, or those who already have passed the licensure.  Rachel Aranda-Malasig, a long time PT practitioner in Frisco, Texas says the state’s facilities have approached her to sponsor qualified PTs for H-1B petitions.

VA Experiencing Shortage of Physical Therapists, Rehab Professionals
In April 2010, American Legion officials discovered staffing shortages in several specialty areas during recent visits to Veterans Affairs (VA) polytrauma rehabilitation centers.

Describing the situation as “unacceptable” Denise Williams, assistant director of the Legion’s Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Healthy urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to “step up their recruiting efforts.. in several areas, including physical therapy, physical medicine and rehabilitation, speech and language pathology, and certified rehabilitation nursing.

Based on information and interviews collected by The American Legion at VA polytrauma centers, Williams told the subcommittee that staffing shortages currently exist in several areas, including physical therapy, physical medicine and rehabilitation, speech and language pathology, and certified rehabilitation nursing.

Williams reportedly urged VA to increase its focus on amputation and prosthetics research programs, "in order to enhance and create innovative means to address this population of veterans' health care needs."

According to the American Legion, the Department of Defense has reported nearly 11,000 service members wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan; of that number, 1,552 suffered amputations, as of April 3.

Increased Demand for PTs
As early as June, 2009, Forbes magazine reported that “physical therapy may not be the quickest second career to get into. It takes time-consuming training. You need to have taken certain science courses and then get three years of specialized education in the field. But once you finish that, the jobs are plentiful and the salaries are healthy.

The demand for physical therapists is expected to grow 27% between 2006 and 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's much faster than most occupations. The American Physical Therapy Association conducted a study recently that found that right now between 13% and 18% of jobs are open.

The graying population in the United States fuels this shortage and great need for therapists. As Americans get older, they need  physical therapists to help them recover from strokes, accidents and the aches and pains that come with age.

 "As the population ages, people get more chronic conditions for which physical therapists are key for keeping functioning," says Julie Keysor, associate professor of physical therapy at Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Boston University. "That doesn't go away with the recession."

Forbes reported further that “ the largest shortages are in nursing homes”  brought about by the passage of  the Balanced Budget Act in 1990 which capped Medicare spending, cutting reimbursement rates and, with the caps came the cuts in physical therapists' jobs.

 "I don't think nursing homes have ever recovered from that," says Marc Goldstein, senior director of research at the American Physical Therapy Association. "The shortage was exacerbated then, and it remains in effect today."