In High Demand: Need for Physical Therapists Projected to Increase

Article excerpt

Like doctors and nurses, physical therapists are in high demand in the United States. By the year 2020, the medical profession will need 39 percent more than are in the workforce now, according to estimates by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Argyle Woodruff, a second-year physical therapy student at the University of Oklahoma College of Allied Health, wants to help change that statistic. He said he hopes to open a private practice clinic after working in the business for about five years.

Woodruff said he was inspired by his late mentor, David Bloom, who had an outpatient orthopedic clinic in Texas. Bloom could control the quality of service with his small operation and was able to develop a rapport with his patients, Woodruff said. In addition, Woodruff said he would rather operate his own business than work for someone else.

"I am fascinated and want the extra challenge of having a business environment I can create on my own," he said.

Woodruff is one of about 130 students at the OU College of Allied Health, which is among the top programs in the nation for graduating physical therapists. But there are several challenges to filling those gaps, said Martha Ferretti, professor and chairwoman of the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences.

One of the major challenges is offering competitive salaries to potential professors. The OU Health Science Center's physical therapy program offers a salary that is about $10,000 to $15,000 less than the national annual average. For highly experienced faculty recruits, OU's salary is about $20,000 less than the national average, Ferretti said.

"That is the hardest part, here at the (OU) Health Sciences Center and at the Schusterman Center in Tulsa," she said. "Once you get people here and start talking about salary, the negotiations begin to break down."

The university is able to offset the lower salary by allowing professors to earn extra money by practicing in clinics for up to 20 percent of their time. …