Is Home Health Right for You as a Physical Therapist?
Should I Work in Home Health as a Physical Therapist?
By Lily Beltran
Think back to when you decided to go to PT school. What initially drew you in to pursue a career in physical therapy? Maybe it was the opportunity to help others heal or the fact that you yourself were an athlete who enjoyed physical activity. Perhaps you were exposed to the power of physical therapy early on in life or simply held a profound interest in the human body.
Now, fast forward to today. How are you liking your physical therapy career up until this point? Is it everything you ever wanted? Or, if you’re getting ready to graduate PT school, are you confident in the career path you’ll take?
Whether you choose to work in a hospital, clinic, or in patients’ homes, there are so many ways to work as a physical therapist. Today, we want to help you explore the pros, cons, and possible alternatives to one of your PT career options–home health.
What is Home Health Physical Therapy?
Home health physical therapy is a form of physical therapy that relies on physical therapists who typically work under a staffing agency or contracted facility to deliver PT care to patients in their homes on an assignment-by-assignment basis.
Here are just a few of the pros and cons associated with a career in home health for physical therapists.
The Pros of Home Health Physical Therapy Jobs
Outpatient clinics are notorious for overbooking physical therapists to keep up with the demands of the modern healthcare system. One physical therapist sums up the stress of outpatient work well, “...I hated having 13+ patients to treat in an 8-hour day. It was hectic and I felt like it was hard to maintain quality care because you’re rushing to get all your patients in.” 1 Many physical therapists find the setting, pace, and one-on-one nature of home health care less stressful.
According to PT Progress, the average salary range of a home health physical therapist is between $77,000 and $88,000. Compare this to the average salary of an outpatient physical therapist at $79,629. The amount you make as a home health physical therapist depends on a number of factors like where you’re located, how you’re paid (hourly, per visit, or salary), and more. Because patients are paying more for the added benefit of care being delivered in their homes, home health jobs can offer higher pay than other types of PT careers.
For some physical therapists, home health can feel like a welcomed reprieve from the grind of working in a typical PT clinic. Here’s one physical therapist who found balance in his schedule with home health: “I start at 9:30-10 and end my day between 2-3pm. Take off when I need to for appts, car maintenance, skiing half a day, etc. without my pay being affected.” 1 This kind of schedule flexibility is not typically possible when working at a clinic or hospital.
The Cons of Home Health Physical Therapy Jobs
While paperwork is an everyday reality for most physical therapists (but not all!), home health assignments require even more documentation than other types of PT jobs. To meet stringent compliance demands and justify high prices compared to clinic visits, home health physical therapists are managing anywhere from three to four times the amount of paperwork compared to other fields of physical therapy.
“Keep in mind the amount of paperwork is ungodly - I spend more time calling doctors, updating charts, documenting and trying to get equipment for patients than I do actually treating the individual. That and you usually have to answer to family members, adjust your day to your patients time constraints and sometimes spend your weekend catching up." 1
Limited Patient Profile
Keep in mind that many home health patients can’t leave their homes. Some have undergone surgery while others are bedridden and nearing the end of their lives. Treating this type of patient can be exciting and fulfilling for some physical therapists, but for others, it can feel like a heavy burden. Because these patients are typically inactive, treatment options are limited and PTs won’t have the opportunity to apply the same type of problem-solving that they can on other types of patients.
Potentially Shady Agencies
While there are plenty of legitimate home health businesses out there, many of the agencies that hire physical therapists are not-so-legit. Many have been caught up in false billings, fraud, and scams. If you choose a career in home health physical therapy, do your due diligence and vet the agency before signing anything.
So, do the advantages of home health outweigh the disadvantages? Only you can decide. It’s all about choosing what’s best for you and your physical therapy career.
Is There A Better Alternative to Home Health?
Historically, home health has been the only available alternative to more traditional outpatient or hospital physical therapy roles. If you don’t want to work in a clinic but aren’t willing to settle for the more limited patient profile and hours of paperwork associated with home health, we’d love for you to consider Luna.
Luna is offering something completely new to physical therapists by combining the best aspects of outpatient and home health. Our physical therapists serve the outpatient patient population in their homes while enjoying total autonomy. You can check out the top reasons why physical therapists are choosing to work with Luna right here.
1. RevolutionaryPost6. “Pros and Cons of home health: Comments” Reddit. Reddit, Inc. Web. 2019 March 3.