Career Development

What Does a Physiatrist Do?

Find out what a physiatrist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a physiatrist.

Physiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in physical rehabilitation and the treatment of musculoskeletal, neurological, and other conditions. They may also be involved in prevention programs to help patients avoid future injuries or ailments.

Physiatrists commonly treat a wide range of conditions including spinal cord injuries, joint disorders, muscle injuries, bone diseases, and more. They often work with other specialists such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, and chiropractors to provide comprehensive care for their patients.

Physiatrist Job Duties

Physiatrists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Prescribing appropriate medications, including pain relievers, antidepressants, and muscle relaxants, based on diagnosis
  • Observing patients’ reactions to treatment and providing feedback to other staff members or therapists about any changes that should be made
  • Conducting assessments of patients’ physical capabilities and identifying goals for treatment
  • Performing diagnostic tests such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, ultrasounds, electrocardiograms, nerve conduction studies, electromyograms (EMGs), nerve stimulation tests (NSTs), and nerve conduction velocity tests (NCVs)
  • Coordinating physical therapy or occupational therapy with other medical professionals, such as physicians or surgeons
  • Performing surgery when indicated, such as spinal fusions or hip replacements
  • Providing postoperative care for surgical patients, including administering medication and ordering physical therapy sessions for recovery
  • Counseling patients to help them cope with the pain of their condition or injury and improve their quality of life
  • Recommending modifications to home environments, vehicles, or other equipment to accommodate disabilities caused by injuries or illnesses

Physiatrist Salary & Outlook

The salary of a physiatrist can vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of patients they treat.

  • Median Annual Salary: $275,000 ($132.21/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $472,000 ($226.92/hour)

The employment of physiatrists is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

An aging population will lead to an increase in chronic conditions, such as arthritis and diabetes, which can cause mobility problems. As a result, more people will need physical therapy and other treatments provided by physiatrists.

Physiatrist Job Requirements

A physiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in the rehabilitation of people who have suffered an illness or injury. The following are some of the requirements for this position:

Education: Physiatrists need to earn a medical degree. They typically earn a bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine, complete a four-year medical school program and earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.).

During medical school, students learn about the human body, disease processes, pharmacology, anatomy, physiology, pathology, medical ethics, medical law and research methods. They also spend time in clinical rotations, where they gain practical experience in a variety of medical specialties.

Training & Experience: Physiatrists receive most of their training during their residencies. During these three to four years, they work under the supervision of a practicing physiatrist. They learn how to diagnose and treat patients, as well as how to manage a practice. They also learn how to manage a practice’s finances and how to manage and supervise a team of medical professionals.

Physiatrists can also receive additional training through fellowships. During these programs, they learn more about specific areas of physiatry, such as pain management or sports medicine. They also learn more about specific populations, such as children or the elderly.

Certifications & Licenses: Physiatrists are required to be licensed in their state. Requirements vary from state to state, but the most common is passing all four sections of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

In addition to the standard license, most states require that physiatrists have a physician assistant license. These licenses require that the physician has completed a PA program and has a certain amount of clinical experience.

Physiatrist Skills

Physiatrists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Medical knowledge: Medical knowledge is the ability to understand the human body and how it functions. This is an essential skill for an physiatrist, as it allows them to diagnose and treat patients effectively. Medical knowledge includes knowledge of anatomy, physiology, neuroscience and other medical topics.

Communication skills: As a physiatrist, you must be able to communicate with patients, other medical professionals and patients’ families. You must be able to explain medical procedures and treatments to patients and their families, and you must be able to explain the treatment plan to other medical professionals. You must also be able to communicate with patients about their recovery process and any setbacks they may experience.

Physical therapy skills: Physical therapists use their skills to assess patients and create treatment plans. They use their knowledge of anatomy to understand how a patient’s injury or illness affects their body. They use their knowledge of exercise and rehabilitation to create a plan that helps patients recover from their conditions.

Problem-solving skills: Physical therapists use problem-solving skills to develop treatment plans for their patients. They use these skills to assess a patient’s condition and determine the best treatment options. They also use problem-solving skills to find solutions to any challenges that arise during treatment, such as when a patient has an adverse reaction to a treatment or when a patient doesn’t respond to treatment as expected.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. As a physiatrist, you may work with patients who have experienced significant pain or discomfort. Being able to understand and relate to their feelings can help you communicate more effectively and develop a stronger relationship with your patients.

Physiatrist Work Environment

Physiatrists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, private clinics, and nursing homes. They may also work in research laboratories or in academic settings, such as medical schools. Most physiatrists work full time, and some may work more than 40 hours per week. They may also be on call to provide patient care in the evenings and on weekends. Although the work can be physically and emotionally demanding, physiatrists find it to be rewarding and satisfying.

Physiatrist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how physiatrists work. Physiatrists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Use of Technology in Healthcare

The use of technology in healthcare is becoming increasingly common, as it offers a number of benefits to both patients and doctors. One of the most important trends that physiatrists can capitalize on is the use of technology in patient care.

This trend is particularly important because it allows physiatrists to provide better care for their patients. By using technology such as telehealth services, they can connect with patients who are located far away and provide them with the care that they need. In addition, this trend also opens up opportunities for physiatrists to work with other professionals, such as nurses and physical therapists, to provide even more comprehensive care.

Patient-Centered Care

Patient-centered care is a trend that has been growing in popularity over the last few years. This trend focuses on providing care that is tailored to the needs of the patient, rather than following a set protocol.

As patient-centered care becomes more popular, physiatrists will need to develop skills in communication and relationship building. They will also need to be able to understand the needs of their patients and provide care that meets those needs.

More Focus on Preventative Medicine

Physiatrists are increasingly being asked to focus on preventative medicine. This means that they will need to spend more time educating patients about how to stay healthy and avoid injuries.

In order to be successful in this field, physiatrists will need to be able to communicate effectively with patients and make them feel comfortable about asking questions. They will also need to be familiar with the latest medical research so that they can provide accurate information.

How to Become a Physiatrist

A career as a physiatrist can be both rewarding and challenging. As a physiatrist, you will have the opportunity to work with patients of all ages who have suffered injuries or illnesses that affect their mobility. You will need to be able to assess each patient’s condition and develop a treatment plan that meets their unique needs.

You will also need to stay up-to-date on the latest research and treatments in order to provide the best care possible. Additionally, you will need to be able to communicate effectively with patients and their families so they understand their treatment plan and are able to participate in their own recovery process.

Advancement Prospects

Physiatrists can advance their careers by taking on additional responsibilities within their organization, such as heading up a department or division. They can also move into leadership roles within professional organizations. Some physiatrists may choose to open their own private practice. Others may move into research or teaching positions.

Physiatrist Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we provide comprehensive rehabilitation services to patients with physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities. We’re looking for a physiatrist to join our team and provide medical treatment to help our patients recover from injuries, illnesses, or surgeries. The ideal candidate will have experience in physical medicine and rehabilitation, as well as a strong understanding of how the body works and heals. He or she will be compassionate and patient, with the ability to build trust and rapport with patients. The physiatrist will be responsible for developing individualized treatment plans and working with a team of therapists to help our patients reach their maximum potential.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Provide comprehensive rehabilitation care to patients with physical disabilities
  • Conduct initial patient evaluations to determine the extent of the disability and develop a treatment plan
  • Perform follow-up examinations to monitor the patient’s progress and revise the treatment plan as needed
  • Coordinate with other members of the healthcare team, including nurses, occupational therapists, and social workers, to ensure that the patient is receiving all necessary services
  • Keep detailed medical records documenting the patient’s condition, treatment plan, and progress
  • Prescribe medications to relieve pain and improve function
  • Order and interpret diagnostic tests, such as X-rays and MRIs, to assess the patient’s condition
  • Use electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and other modalities to relieve pain and promote healing
  • Perform therapeutic procedures, such as joint injections and nerve blocks
  • Educate patients and their families about the nature of the disability and the available treatment options
  • Advocate for patients to ensure that they have access to all necessary resources
  • Stay up-to-date on new developments in the field of physiatry

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree
  • Completion of an accredited residency program in physical medicine and rehabilitation
  • Board certification by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • Unrestricted medical license to practice in the state where you will be working
  • DEA registration number
  • Excellent communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Experience working with patients who have a wide range of disabilities
  • Experience in electrodiagnostic testing
  • Familiarity with common assistive devices and adaptive technologies
  • Ability to prescribe medications
  • Bilingualism


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