When working in hospital settings, physical therapists have frequent interactions with nurses. According to an interview done by XXX with XXX, physical therapists communicate with nurses daily as part of secondary patient care. The hospital's original mechanism for consults between nurses and physical therapist was paper medical records; however, that method of communication has since been replaced by face-to-face consults and electronic medical records. A recent article in the Journal of Interprofessional Care found that interactions between different types of health care professionals (including nurses and physical therapists) were "richer and lengthier, and consisted of negotiations which related to both clinical as well as social content" than those between health care professionals and physicians (Reeves, Rice, Conn, Miller, Kenaszchuk, & Zwarenstein, 2009, 633). The study also showed that these types of positive communications and interactions improved the quality of patient care and decreased the risk for negative patient outcomes.
Even though this study suggests that interactions between nurses and physical therapists tend to be positive, there is always room for improvement in these exchanges. In XXX's interview with XXX, she stated that she believed nurses and physical therapists would work more effectively if the nurses helped coordinate patient activities. Specifically, she would like the nurses to coordinate daily activities like eating and bathing. She also believes it would be helpful if the nurses assisted the physical therapists when getting the patients out of bed.
Although nurses and physical therapists frequently work in similar settings and share duties for patient care, the requirements that must be met to become a member of these two professions are very different. As previously mentioned, being a physical therapist requires a minimum of a master's degree, with most employers seeking physical therapists who have completed at least three years of postgraduate work and attained a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. The requirements to become a registered nurse are considerably less stringent and time consuming.
If a person wants to become a registered nurse, they must first complete a minimum of an associate's degree in nursing. In most cases, a bachelor's degree is preferred, but it is certainly possible to become a registered nurse with an associate's degree only. The associate's degree takes approximately two years to complete, while a bachelor's degree is typically expected to take four years to complete. This means that one can fulfill the educational requirements necessary to become a nurse in three to five years less than it takes to complete the educational requirements necessary to become a physical therapist.
The licensing and certification requirements are similar for physical therapists and nurses. Like physical therapists, students must pass a national licensing exam in order to become a registered nurse. Additionally, registered nurses must also complete continuing education requirements. In fact, the amount of continuing education required for registered nurses to maintain their certification (twenty-four hours every two years) is identical to the amount of continuing education required of physical therapists.
Academic Programs: Transitional DPT Program. Retrieved March 22, 2010 from Ohio
University's School of Physical Therapy's official website: