Choosing a Career in Physical Therapy [Interview][Transcript]

amy_bell_pt_dpt_physical_therapyGuest: Amy Bell, PT, DPT
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Amy Bell has been a physical therapist at the Niles Athletico since 2005. She joined the company after completing her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Central Michigan University. Amy attended the University of Michigan for her undergraduate degree and competed on the Women’s Gymnastics Team. While at Michigan, Amy was a 2-time All-Big Ten Team Member, a member of 4 Big Ten Championship Teams, and competed in 3 NCAA Championships during her college career.

Segment overview: Amy Bell, a physical therapist with Athletico Physical Therapy discusses her young life as an athlete and how that helped her to choose her career as a physical therapist, a field which is expected to grow over 34% in the next decade.

Health Professional Radio – Career in Physical Therapy


Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program, I’m your host Neal Howard. Thank you for joining us here on Health Professional Radio. Our guest in studio today is Amy Bell, she is a physical therapist with Athletico Physical Therapy and she’s in studio to discuss with us her life as an athlete and also as a physical therapist and what it was that drove her to the field of physical therapy – a field which is expected to grow over well about 34 – 35% over the next 10 years. Welcome to the program Amy.

Amy Bell: Thank you so much for having me today.

N: Thank you. Now you’re a physical therapist with Athletico Physical Therapy. Where is Athletico located?

A: It’s based out of Chicago but we are now in 9 states.

N: Great.

A: The specific clinic that I work in is actually in the Niles-Northwest Chicago area.

N: And is it strictly sports medicine?

A: It’s sports medicine but we treat patients of all ages and backgrounds, we treat workman’s compensations, we treat just really all different people in therapy.

N: Now you mentioned that you were an athlete. Are you still an athlete as well as a physical therapist?

A: Well, I’m not really an athlete anymore. I mean I do work out every day, but I’m not a gymnast like I was growing up.

N: Okay. What was it that drove you into the field of physical therapy?

A: Well, I really became interested in physical therapy when I was 12 years old. I had my first injury in gymnastics, I hurt my foot and I had to have therapy. And I really found out a lot about the field then. I learned about how the body works and I had a great physical therapist, I really enjoyed the exercises and I got back to a 100%. And then again in high school I had a back stress fracture and I returned to physical therapy and I again had a great experience so that kind of peaked my interest at an early age. Then I went on a college and competed on the gymnastics team at the University of Michigan. And again, in gymnastics, unfortunately, I had some injuries so I spent more time in the training room working with the physical therapist and athletic trainers at Michigan and that kind of led me more into knowing that this was the career of my choice.

N: Did you take any classes while you were in college that were related to physical therapy or were you simply getting your experience initially from actually being a patient?

A: Well actually I was lucky enough to know that I was thinking about physical therapy when I started college, so I kind of geared my classes towards the prerequisites that you need to go onto physical therapy school as a graduate. So I was taking your high-level science classes, your biology classes, physiology, anatomy, and then some of your psychology classes so I was kind of taking them while I was still in college.

N: Are there specialties within the field of physical therapy?

A: There are, there’s lots of specialties. So you can specialize in different body parts such as treating the hip or treating the shoulder, you could specialize in women’s health or vestibular therapy or workman’s compensation. So there’s so many different things that you can specialize in which really makes it a very unique field.

N: Are you well-versed in all or many areas of physical therapy or are you focused strictly on physical therapy that has to do with athletics?

A: I can treat patients of all different ages and diagnoses. So we come out of school with a great background for that and then it’s up to you if you want to take specialized classes afterwards to really focus your interest. But I enjoyed treating patients, old and young as well as treating athletes in my daily job.

N: What is maybe one myth having to do with physical therapy that you’d like to kind of dispel today since you’re here with us? Every specialty seems to have that one misunderstanding or something that people say “Well all physical therapists do this” or “Every time you go to physical therapy this happens” or the other. What’s one of those things that kind of gnaw at you when people talk about physical therapy and tell you what they don’t know?

A: Well I think physical therapy is not always the same like every clinic is going to be different, every physical therapist is going to be different. So I don’t think you can usually use a blanket statement and say all physical therapy is one way or another. And I think if you can connect with a really great physical therapist that really understands your injury, it really makes a difference. So I always get upset when people say they had a negative experience because I think there’s so many great people out there that can help you have a great experience in physical therapy and get back to what you’re doing.

N: You mentioned taking some psychology courses in college. Do you find that there is a connection with the physical therapist that maybe non-existent or exist on a more superficial level with the actual doctor that may have referred them to you? Get into the mind of somebody that is wanting to trust you as a physical therapist?

A: Yeah, I think that the psychology aspect is really important. I mean we’re fortunate as physical therapists because we get to spend 45 minutes to an hour and sometimes more with each patient. And that’s a lot of one-on-one time to really get to know the patient and understand where they’re coming from and what they want to do and their fears and just kind of understand the person as a whole and I think that really helps them to get better and to trust you and to have a great experience overall.

N: What would you say to someone who’s looking into the field of physical therapy or seeking some physical therapy for maybe an injury that they’re not really sure what to do with?

A: Well I think talking to high school students and college students if they’re interested in the career in physical therapy, I think it’s great if they go into a clinic and shadow and really see what the job is all about and work one on one with a physical therapist. They could do that in a hospital or in an outpatient clinic or in a school and see all the different environments that physical therapists work in and kind of get an idea of what the patients are like and what the job requirements are. For someone who’s looking to have physical therapy, I think talking to friends and family and seeing if they have a good person that they recommend is a nice place to start or talking to their physician and seeing if they have a nice person that they have in mind to send you to. But I also think stopping by a clinic and checking it out and seeing if you like the environment and the energy and knowing who you might see as a physical therapist that can maybe help them have a little bit more confidence in what they’re going to undertake if they are a patient at that clinic.

N: Great. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard in studio with Amy Bell, physical therapist with Athletico Physical Therapy and she’s been in studio today with us discussing her life as an athlete and how she became a physical therapist, some of the things she suggest that you look into if you’re interested in becoming a physical therapist. It’s been great having you here with us today Amy.

A: Thank you so much.

N: Thank you for coming. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

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