A Student’s Guide to Careers in Rehabilitation Medicine

September 17, 2013
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As a Kinesiology student entering my fourth and hopefully final year of this degree, I have begun researching career opportunities that are available to Kinesiology graduates.  Depending on where your interests lie, there is a variety of career paths available including physical therapy, occupational therapy, becoming a chiropractor, or even a rehabilitation physician, known as a physiatrist. These all require further schooling, as each field is fairly complex.

As a Kinesiology student entering my fourth and hopefully final year of this degree, I have begun researching career opportunities that are available to Kinesiology graduates.  Depending on where your interests lie, there is a variety of career paths available including physical therapy, occupational therapy, becoming a chiropractor, or even a rehabilitation physician, known as a physiatrist. These all require further schooling, as each field is fairly complex.

The Kinesiology program at Simon Fraser University, is considered one of the best in Canada, is broadly focused, and yet manages to deeply explore the science. Still, I feel like we do not have a good enough understanding to make decisions on what we want to do in the future. I speak with my peers on a regular basis inquiring about their aspirations, and I’ve been surprised that many of them aren’t aware of the many options for Kinesiology students. A few have not even heard of Occupational Therapy as a profession, if you can believe it. Choosing a profession that you want to pursue for the rest of your life is not an easy task, especially when as undergrads we don’t have enough exposure to the options.

Recently, I’ve begun doing my own research to understand the potential career paths open to me, and I can’t help but think that if someone like me, a serious recreational athlete and student of human kinetics is confused about the different professions that focus on improving movement, then what can it be like for the general public looking for treatment options? So with that, here’s what I’ve learned as I consider my future.

Physiatrist
Physiatrists are also known as rehabilitation doctors. They are specialists in injuries and illnesses that affect how people move, including nerve, muscle, bone, and brain issues. They do not perform surgery but look at the whole person rather than a symptom or condition. A physiatrist is a medical doctor, and uses the MD designation. The distinction of physiatrist as a separate medical specialty was recognized by the AMA in 1946.  

Physiatry

Physical Therapist
Physical therapy is the treatment of any pain, disease, or injury by physical means. Physical therapists work with patients whose movement is compromised due to injury, disease, or age. Their goals are to help patients improve movement and manage pain. Physical therapy has its roots in Great Britain, when four nurses formed the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in 1894, although the earliest documentation of the profession is from Sweden in 1813. Physical therapists have graduate degrees and are either a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) or a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)

Physical Therapy

Chiropractor
Chiropractic is considered to be a complimentary or alternative form of medicine that emphasizes manual therapy including joint adjustment and manipulation, in particular for low back pain, neck pain, some kinds of headaches and a number of extremity joint conditions. It has a long history, dating back to 1895, and has stirred controversy over the years for claims that spinal alignment could cure many types of disease. Graduates from North American Chiropractic schools are known as “Doctors of Chiropractic” or DC had have a minimum of 7 years of university. 

Chiropractic

Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapy is focused on helping patients regain the ability to do everyday tasks related to work or home life. They work people  to modify or break down  tasks or adapt the environment to enable clients to reach their goals. They also focus on the optimal way to complete physical tasks for best function. The profession of Occupational Therapy was named in 1920. Occupational Therapists usually hold Masters (MOT) or Doctoral degrees (DOT).
Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy

One thing I noticed when doing my reasearch, is that all the professions say they are concerned about the whole health of the individual and many are moving towards prevention of illness or injury. So, if all these professions are concerned about the whole health of the person, prevention, and specifically the health of the musculoskeletal system, how do you know who to see when? Well, that’s a topic for another blog post. And, where do I want to specialize after my undergrad degree? I’m still exploring. Anyone need an intern?

 

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