Physiotherapists assess, treat and prevent disorders in human movement caused by injury and disease. They are often members of medical teams that treat sport injuries and ill persons, and help disabled people to lead useful lives with as much independence and personal fulfilment as possible. They use a variety of physical techniques and therapies in the treatment and rehabilitation of their patients.
Physiotherapists work with a variety of patients including physically disabled children, pre- and post-natal women, sportsmen and women, industrial employees, hospital in- and out-patients and people within the community.
Tasks can include helping patients recover from accident, illness or injury, organising physical exercise sessions, providing massages, supervising specialist therapies such as electrotherapy and aromatherapy, collecting statistics, writing reports, liaising with professionals such as doctors and nurses and providing education and advice about exercise and movement.They assess the physical condition of patients to diagnose the problems and plan appropriate treatment. Physiotherapists use a range of techniques to strengthen and stretch muscles and joints to improve patient mobility. They may use hydrotherapy, or breathing and relaxation techniques, for example. They sometimes perform spinal and peripheral joint mobilisation and manipulation. They use equipment such as traction, weights, exercise equipment, cold packs and electrical treatments to ease pain, reduce swelling and improve the range of movement.
If the physiotherapists are not part of a health care team, they may work independently in private practice, within the school system or as industry consultants.
Working environments may vary from spacious, well-equipped gymnasia to hospital wards and intensive care units, or to crowded and noisy clinics. Actual settings depend on the type, location and resources of employers. Some physiotherapists visit and treat patients in their homes.
Important skills for physiotherapists are good time management, the ability to build a rapport with patients from a variety of backgrounds and communicate with their relatives and carers, tolerance and patience, good physical health and fitness, interpersonal skills and team-working skills.
Schooling & School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.
Degree: BSc (Physiotherapy) - UP, US, UKZN, UCT, UFS, UV, UL, Wits. Duration of course is 4 years.
Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to accredited qualifications and registration requirements. This information can be found in the relevant sections under the Professional Board for Physiotherapy, Podiatry and Biokinetics.
Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205,
Tel: (012) 338-9301 Fax: (012) 328-5120
South African Society of Physiotherapy
P O Box 752378
Tel: (011) 022-2132 Fax: 086 559 8237