If physical therapists aren’t interested in Texas, it’s not because they aren’t capable of doing the job, it may be because they don’t want to, or aren’t willing to, in their current position.
A growing number of physical therapists and physical education instructors across the country are opting to accept no salary at all.
Some of these positions have taken on a new meaning in recent years, as a growing number seek to diversify their portfolios by working in areas where they can get paid less.
And as they seek new opportunities in areas with limited funding, they may be finding themselves working with a small pool of highly paid, experienced providers who don’t necessarily share the same values and mission.
In Texas, a state with the highest percentage of adults with disabilities, a growing percentage of physical therapy students are also working at or near the poverty line.
A new report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) released in July 2017 showed that physical therapy enrollment in Texas has been declining for more than a decade, from around 2,200 students in 2011 to just 1,900 students in 2017.
The report noted that Texas’ enrollment of students with disabilities in physical therapy has also been decreasing, from 2,000 in 2011, to just 5,400 in 2017, an enrollment rate of just under 1 percent.
“The state has been slow to recognize and implement a program of high quality physical therapy education,” said Rachel Czarniak, a senior policy analyst with the TPPF.
“When it did recognize the need, it was largely in the form of a $300,000 pilot program to train new providers.
Now, we are seeing more and more state leaders acknowledge that physical therapists are a vital part of the solution, and are moving to improve their educational offerings to address the challenges of Texas’ physical therapy workforce.”
In 2016, Texas launched a statewide effort to expand access to physical therapy.
But in the last five years, the state has seen enrollment decline by nearly half, from nearly 2,500 students in 2016 to just over 1,800 students in the most recent report.
A majority of Texas physical therapists do not hold any graduate degrees, and only 1 percent hold at least a bachelor’s degree.
According to the TPPG, the number of Texas-trained physical therapists has declined from just under 20,000 students in 2014 to just under 10,000 today.
Texas has the third-highest percentage of adult residents living in poverty in the country, with roughly 14.5 percent of residents living below the poverty level, according to the United Nations.
The TPPF report noted the challenges that physical therapist graduates face, including the high cost of living, limited access to job opportunities, and limited job security.
“Physician education programs in the United States have not focused on creating a strong, well-rounded workforce of physical therapist students who have strong careers that complement the physical therapist’s professional skills,” said Czabinski.
“With the lack of access to a strong physical therapist workforce, many students are left with limited options to obtain employment or face discrimination based on disability or other factors.”
The TPPG report also noted that physical education teachers are at high risk of becoming targets of discrimination because they lack a degree and do not meet the requirements for licensure in their respective fields.
The group also noted a shortage of training opportunities for physical therapists, particularly in the state of Texas.
“Many of our members are at an even higher risk of being denied access to training opportunities because of their physical therapy credentials,” Czaborik said.
“They are often at risk of not receiving qualified, affordable, and effective training, and can be denied access because they do not have an associate’s degree.”
For many, physical therapy can be an opportunity to build a career in the health care field.
Many professionals in physical education are also concerned about the negative impacts of the practice on their families.
“We are seeing physical therapists who are seeing a decline in family relationships,” said Karen Wojtowicz, president of the Texas State Association of Physical Therapy Teachers (STAPT).
“In addition, we see parents who are not seeing their children grow, develop, and become productive adults, or have access to the opportunities they are seeking.”
Wojtkowicz said the health insurance companies, which are increasingly reluctant to provide physical therapy services, are also not willing to provide reimbursement to physical therapists.
“These are not the same programs that we would have been able to participate in before, and these are just not covered,” Wojkowicz said.
But some physical therapists have taken to social media to raise awareness of the issue.
“As a profession, we have a responsibility to address these issues.
We need to do our part to protect the health of our patients and staff,” said Melissa Bowers, director of communications at the Texas Association of Physician Education Administrators (TAPEA).
Bowers said that although the physical therapy industry is a growing industry, the percentage of registered