The role: Physiotherapists assess, diagnose and treat illness, injury and disability with a hands-on approach, says Doug Treloar, a physiotherapist in Brandon, Man., and president of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association. Physiotherapy is about restoring or improving the function of different body systems through targeted exercises and therapeutic aids.
Practitioners work in private clinics, hospitals, community health centres, schools and workplaces. Mr. Treloar said physiotherapists treat a broad range of patients, from seniors and disabled people, to children, athletes and those who want to improve their physical health. “A big part of what we also do is health promotion and disease prevention,” he says.
Salary: Most physiotherapists earn about $50,000 to $80,000 a year, but can make more if they’re entrepreneurs who run their own clinic, Mr. Treloar says.
Education: An undergraduate degree and a master’s in physiotherapy are needed to practise as a physiotherapist. Some physiotherapists also have a PhD. A number of universities across Canada offer physiotherapy education, in both English and French. Mr. Treloar says many physiotherapists obtain a science or related undergraduate degree before entering a master’s program.
By the numbers: There are about 21,000 physiotherapists in Canada, according to the 2011 National Household Survey. About three-quarters of them are women.
Job prospects: Good. Mr. Treloar says the demand for physiotherapists is increasing. “We are seeing the effects of an aging population and shorter hospitals stays,” he says.
Challenges: It can be hard on the hands, Mr. Treloar says. “If anything wears out on a physio, it’s our hands. The challenge of the profession long-term is maintaining the tools of our trade, which is our hands,” he says.
Why they do it: Mr. Treloar says physiotherapists really do have a “genuine desire to help people.” He says physiotherapists lead a healthy lifestyle and want to work in a profession that helps others do the same.
Misconceptions: Physiotherapists tend to get lumped in with chiropractors or massage therapists, when the practice is much different, Mr. Treloar says.
“We are pretty territorial in that we make sure that an individual is being seen by a physiotherapist that it is truly a physiotherapist,” Mr. Treloar says. He also said a lot of Canadians think they need a doctor’s referral to see a physiotherapist, but that’s not the case. “That’s the big one for us.”