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10 Pros and Cons of Being a Physical Therapy Nurse + Steps to Become + Salary


Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Are you debating whether or not to become a physical therapy nurse? Do you know what are the pros and cons of being a physical therapy nurse?

Whether you are looking for a challenging and rewarding career or just want to help people recover from injuries and illness or prevent injuries, this job has it all. It is a job that takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be able to help people along the recovery process. But it is also incredibly gratifying, and there are many benefits to the job. Before you make your decision, it is essential to weigh the pros and cons. Below you will find the top 10 pros and cons of being a physical therapy nurse, so you can decide if this is a career worth pursuing. But do not just take my word for it – read on to find out more about what being a physical therapy nurse is really like!


What Does A Physical Therapy Nurse Do?


So, I am sure you are asking yourself, what does a physical therapy nurse do? A physical therapy nurse is a registered nurse specializing in the rehabilitation of patients who have been injured or are suffering from a debilitating illness. They work with patients to help them regain their mobility and independence. This can involve anything from teaching them how to exercise correctly to assisting them in adapting to life after an injury. Another aspect of their job is to help patients prevent injury as well through proper body mechanics. Physical therapy nurses are an essential part of the rehabilitation process. They can make a massive difference in the lives of their patients.

Another aspect of this career path is that a physical therapy nurse is an actual registered nurse. This means that you will essentially be able to perform nursing tasks and provide nursing care for your patients. For example, if a patient had a knee replacement, you will be able to not only provide physical therapy, but also be able to assess the surgical site and redress the wound.


Where Does A Physical Therapy Nurse Work?


You will find that a significant reason people explore the option to become a physical therapy nurse is that there is a wide variety of settings that you can work in. You may find a physical therapy nurse to be working in a hospital, outpatient clinic, nursing home, home care, or private practice. Some physical therapy nurses also work for the military or schools. This is a very versatile position that allows you to work in a variety of settings. No matter where you choose to work, you will be able to help people regain their strength and mobility after an injury or surgery.


What Are The Typical Working Hours Of A Physical Therapy Nurse?


The typical working hours of a physical therapy nurse are typically 8 am to 5 pm, with a one-hour break for lunch. However, physical therapy nurses may be required to work overtime or on-call as needed. Some hospitals have evening or night shifts available, but these are not as common. Physical therapy nurses may also be asked to work weekends if required.


What Are The Most Important Skills Required To Work As A Physical Therapy Nurse?


The most important skills you will need to possess in becoming a physical therapy nurse are patience, empathy, and strong communication skills. You will need to be able to empathize with your patients in order to understand their needs and help them to feel comfortable during their treatment. You will also need to have excellent communication skills so that you can effectively communicate with both your patients and their families. Additionally, you will need to be patient and understanding while working with patients who may be struggling to regain their mobility.

You will also need to have a deep understanding of how the human body works. This knowledge will help you develop treatment plans that are specifically tailored to the needs of each individual patient. Additionally, you will need to be able to effectively educate your patients on how they can continue their rehabilitation even after they have left the hospital or clinic.


How Much Does A Physical Therapy Nurse Make?


The average physical therapy nurse's salary is $97,390 a year. This figure is roughly $8,120 a month or $46.82 a year. The starting salary of a physical therapy nurse is $69,830 a year or $5,820 a month. This means you would be earning $33.57 an hour. After working for at least four years, the average physical therapy nurse salary per hour will increase to $40.27 or $6,980. This increase in salary means you will be earning an annual income of $83,760. Once you have been in the field for anywhere from 5 to 9 years, you can expect to earn around $8,180 a month or $47.17 an hour, an annual income of $98,110 a year.

A physical therapy nurse who has been working for 10-19 years can expect to increase their yearly income to $113,700. This means you can expect an hourly rate of $54.66 or $9,480 a month. The average physical therapy nurse salary for those who have 20 plus years of experience is in the six-figure range. You will be earning $128,560 a year, which is $10,710 a month. This means you will have an hourly rate of around $61.81 an hour.

Level of Experience HourlyMonthlyAnnual
Entry-Level $33.57 $5,820 $69,830
1-4 Years of Experience $40.27 $6,980 $83,760
5-9 Years of Experience $47.17 $8,180 $98,110
10-19 Years of Experience $54.66 $9,480 $113,700
20 Years or More Experience $61.81 $10,710 $128,560
Average Salary$46.82 $8,120 $97,390


Is There A Demand For Physical Therapy Nurses?


So, I bet you are curious about what the job outlook for a career as a physical therapy nurse looks like. It is easy to assume that the demand for a physical therapy nurse will only grow in a positive direction. The reason for this projected growth is quite simple. First, there is an aging population within the United States. This aging population will require a physical therapy nurse's skill set to keep them mobile and prevent age-related complications.

The second reason for this projected growth in the career is that, as a whole, we are seeing an increase in chronic diseases and cardiovascular disease. These chronic conditions can weaken a patient over time and may lead to injuries and further debilitation. A physical therapy nurse will be required to aid these patients in their road to recovery.

The third reason for a physical therapy nurse being in demand is that there are many advances in medical technology. These advances in medical technology will lead to patients requiring rehabilitation as part of the healing process.


8 Steps To Becoming A Physical Therapy Nurse


1. The first step to becoming a physical therapy nurse is to complete your bachelor’s degree in nursing from an accredited program from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

2. The next step would be successfully completing the National Certification Licensure Exam (NCLEX) in the state you will be practicing in. Passing this exam means that you can work as a nurse.

3. You can then make a choice to become certified as a nurse. This is not mandatory. Some of the areas that you may choose to become certified in, for example, are geriatrics or pediatrics.

4. Then you will need to complete a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree from an accredited program by the Commission of Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

5. You will next have to pass a licensure exam to practice as a physical therapist. You must successfully pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE)

6. You should consider completing a residency as a physical therapist. Completing a physical therapist residency is not mandated, but it will make you more marketable.

7. You should next earn your certification as a physical therapist. Achieving certification is also not mandatory, but many employers prefer you to have it. Certification is obtained through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS.)

8. You will then need to ensure that you maintain both of your licenses. You will need to check with your state of licensure regarding the requirements to renew your nursing license and physical therapy license.



TOP CONS OF BEING A PHYSICAL THERAPY NURSE


(The following are the top 10 disadvantages of being a Physical Therapy Nurse.)

1. You will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

One of the top disadvantages of being a physical therapy nurse is that you will need to first earn a bachelor's degree in nursing. This requirement is in place because physical therapy nurses must have a firm understanding of the human body and the way it works. While this may be a disadvantage for some, it is also a testament to the level of education and training that physical therapy nurses receive. Earning your bachelor's degree in nursing will require four years of study. So, if you're looking to become a physical therapy nurse, be sure to earn your bachelor's degree in nursing.

2. You will need to earn a doctorate in physical therapy.

Another one of the cons of being a physical therapy nurse is that you will also be required to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. This is a disadvantage because it will add more years to your schooling and can be pretty expensive. Earning a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree will have you spending an additional 3 to 4 years in school.

3. You will need to pass a licensure exam and maintain your licensure.

In order to become a physical therapy nurse, you will first need to pass the National Certification Licensure Exam (NCLEX) in the state you will be practicing in. Now, you will also need to pass your license exam to become a physical therapist. This will require that you are successful on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).

After you have earned your licenses, you must maintain them. Maintaining your nursing license and your physical therapy license will vary by state. Each state will have specific guidelines that you must meet in order to be updated with licensing requirements. You should check with the state your licenses are issued from in order to ensure that you meet the conditions for your license renewal.

4. All of these degrees will be expensive.

So, I’m sure you have already realized that if you wish to pursue this career, you will have quite a bit of education ahead of you. Your bachelor’s in nursing degree will cost you anywhere from $8,590 to $112,890 for a public institution and $16,710 to $201,610 for a private institution. The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree will cost you around $80,000 more. Keep in mind that you will also need to factor in any additional fees the educational institution charges for. You will also need to pay for your books.

5. Your job will be physically demanding.

One of the cons to being a physical therapy nurse is that you will have an extremely physically demanding job. This is because you will be working with patients who are often recovering from surgery or an injury and need your help to get back on their feet. Having such a physically demanding job can leave you open to injuring yourself. If you become incapacitated, you may find yourself out of work. This is something to consider before becoming a physical therapy nurse.

6. You may have to work with demanding patients.

As a physical therapy nurse, you may have to work with demanding patients. Patients who require much attention and care can be challenging to work with. You may find that these demanding patients may be challenging to work with at times because they will give you a great deal of pushback. They may also be resistant to your care plans. It may be difficult to stay positive and professional when working with these patients.

7. You may end up essentially performing the tasks of two jobs.

One of the most significant cons of being a physical therapy nurse is that you may sometimes find that you will be performing the tasks of two different jobs on one patient. I know what you are thinking, wow I could make a lot of money on these two for one job. Well, not too fast. Some employers will not pay you based on the fact that you are doing the job of two people. This means you will be working extra hard and doing the job of two on a one-person salary.

8. You may have to go into people’s homes.

One of the greatest downfalls to being a physical therapy nurse is that you may have to go into people's homes. This can be an opportunity to really get to know your patients, but it also has its drawbacks. For one, you never know what kind of condition the person will be in when you arrive. They may be perfectly healthy and just need a little guidance with their exercises, or they may be in a lot of pain and not be able to do very much on their own.

Secondly, you often have to work with patients who have dirty homes. You may have to go into these homes may be filled with germs, bugs, mold, and rodents. This can be a real challenge, primarily if you are not used to working in such an environment. Let's just hope the home you go in does not have bed bugs.

9. You may be exposed to pathogens.

One of the disadvantages of being a physical therapy nurse is that you may be exposed to various pathogens. While most of these pathogens are not harmful, a few can make you quite sick. It is essential to be aware of these potential risks. These pathogens can also make your loved ones at home ill.

10. Your day may not end when your session with the client does.

As a physical therapy nurse, your day may not end when your session with the client does. You will have charting, billing, and care plans to do. This can take up a lot of your time. You may find yourself working to all hours of the night. You may also not be rewarded monetarily for the work that is taking place after hours. This is something that you should consider when considering a career as a physical therapy nurse.



TOP PROS OF BEING A PHYSICAL THERAPY NURSE


(The following are the top 10 advantages of being a Physical Therapy Nurse.)

1. You will earn a nice income.

One of the top pros of being a physical therapy nurse is the income that you will have. The average physical therapy nurse's salary is $97,390 a year. This figure is roughly $8,120 a month or $46.82 a year. For those who have 20 plus years of experience, the salary is $128,560 a year or $10,710 a month. This means you will have an hourly rate of around $61.81 an hour. That is definitely nothing to sneeze at! This means that you will be able to enjoy a good quality of life while helping others regain theirs. So, if you are looking for a rewarding and lucrative career, physical therapy nursing may be the perfect choice for you.

2. You will not have a sedentary job.

As a physical therapy nurse, you will not have a sedentary job. You will be on your feet all day, moving patients and helping them to get back to their regular routines. This is a physically demanding job, but it is also very rewarding. This line of work will help keep you physically fit. You will not have to worry about putting on weight or developing health problems like heart disease since you will constantly be active.

3. You will have job security.

One of the pros of being a physical therapy nurse is that you will be able to enjoy having job security. This is because physical therapy nurses are always in high demand due to the many benefits they provide to patients. Having job security will allow you to focus on your work and provide the best care possible to your patients. You will not be worried if you will have a job tomorrow.

4. You may have a pretty good schedule.

As a physical therapy nurse, you may end up having a pretty nice schedule. Weekends are a rarity in this line of work, as are working the night shift. You will typically be working a Monday through Friday schedule about 8 hours a day. Unlike other health care professionals, you will find that you will not be working holidays.

5. You will be helping others.

One of the pros of becoming a physical therapy nurse is that you will be helping other people. This is an advantageous career choice because you will be making a difference in the lives of others. Not only will you be helping people physically, but you will also be providing emotional support. You will help enable your patients to reach their goals and improve their quality of life. This is a very fulfilling career path to take. This is an excellent career for those who want to make a difference in the world.

6. You can work in a variety of settings.

As a physical therapy nurse, you can work in various settings. You could work in a hospital, helping patients regain movement after an injury. You could also work in a nursing home or assisted living facility, assisting seniors in staying mobile and healthy. Or you could work in a private clinic, helping people of all ages recover from injuries or surgery. Working in the home care setting is another arena where you can lend your expertise. This allows you to work one-on-one with patients and their families, providing necessary treatments in the comfort of their own homes. Whichever setting you choose, as a physical therapy nurse, you will be making a difference in the lives of your patients.

7. You can choose an age group to work with

As a physical therapy nurse, you can work with the age group you want. Whether you want to work with the elderly, pediatric, or adult population, there is a physical therapy specialty for you. So, if you are looking for a career that will let you work with patients of all ages, then becoming a physical therapy nurse is definitely the right choice for you. You will find what fits you best.

8. You are highly marketable

One of the most significant advantages of being a physical therapy nurse is that you are highly marketable. You not only have the knowledge and skills to work as a nurse, but you also have the knowledge and skill to work as a physical therapist. Put these two sets of knowledge and skills together; well, you essentially become a one-man show. You can meet the needs of a patient on both avenues. You are essentially an employer’s dream for patients who require both skill sets.

9. You will never be bored

One of the most significant advantages of being a physical therapy nurse is that you will never be bored. Every day is different, and you will see different patients with additional needs. This means that you will always be learning new things, and you will never get stale in your job. So, if you are looking for a career that is always exciting and fresh, then physical therapy nursing is definitely the field for you! Remember, variety is the spice of life.

10. You will have a fallback career.

As a physical therapy nurse, you have an advantage over most careers out there. If, for some reason, you no longer wish to be a physical therapy nurse, well, you have two separate careers that you can easily fall back on. You are trained as a nurse and physical therapist. You can easily take up one of those careers separately from the other. This should feel like an extra safety net because many careers you could have chosen offer this little bit of insurance.



BREAKING DOWN THE SALARY OF A PHYSICAL THERAPY NURSE


What Is The Starting Salary Of A Physical Therapy Nurse?


The starting salary for a physical therapy nurse is around $69,830 a year. If you were to break this annual salary down, you would be earning $33.57 an hour. This means that monthly you will be earning $5,820.

Hourly$33.57
Weekly $1,343
Monthly$5,820
Annual$69,830


What Is The Average Salary Of A Physical Therapy Nurse?


A physical therapy nurse's average salary is around $97,390 a year. A wage like this will have you earning $8,100 a month. Breaking down the average salary for a physical therapy nurse further will have you earning an hourly wage of $46.82 an hour or $1,873 a week.

Hourly$46.82
Weekly $1,873
Monthly$8,120
Annual$97,390


Physical Therapy Nurse Salary By State


As a physical therapist, your salary will be affected by your experience level and the state you are working in. There can be a great deal of variation in the amount of income you will see depending on the state you work in. For example, in Alabama, you can expect to see an annual salary of $73,310. Now, if you choose to work in California, you will see a considerable increase in your paycheck. In California, you can expect an annual salary of $146,750. That is a vast difference in compensation for the same amount of work.

State Hourly Monthly Annual
Alabama $35.25 $6,110 $73,310
Alaska $55.75 $9,660 $115,960
Arizona $47.04 $8,150 $97,840
Arkansas $37.24 $6,460 $77,460
California $70.55 $12,230 $146,750
Colorado $45.56 $7,900 $94,770
Connecticut $49.65 $8,610 $103,280
Delaware $43.50 $7,540 $90,480
Florida $40.68 $7,050 $84,610
Georgia $41.85 $7,250 $87,040
Hawaii $61.35 $10,630 $127,600
Idaho $41.92 $7,270 $87,200
Illinois $43.63 $7,560 $90,760
Indiana $39.50 $6,850 $82,150
Iowa $36.62 $6,350 $76,160
Kansas $37.57 $6,510 $78,150
Kentucky $37.88 $6,570 $78,790
Louisiana $39.80 $6,900 $82,780
Maine $41.57 $7,210 $86,470
Maryland $47.75 $8,280 $99,310
Massachusetts $56.33 $9,760 $117,160
Michigan $43.29 $7,500 $90,050
Minnesota $47.38 $8,210 $98,550
Mississippi $35.84 $6,210 $74,550
Missouri $38.56 $6,680 $80,210
Montana $41.27 $7,150 $85,850
Nebraska $40.66 $7,050 $84,570
Nevada $52.52 $9,100 $109,250
New Hampshire $44.46 $7,710 $92,470
New Jersey $50.16 $8,700 $104,340
New Mexico $44.30 $7,680 $92,140
New York $52.53 $9,110 $109,260
North Carolina $40.35 $6,990 $83,930
North Dakota $40.75 $7,060 $84,760
Ohio $40.82 $7,080 $84,900
Oklahoma $38.98 $6,760 $81,070
Oregon $56.31 $9,760 $117,130
Pennsylvania $43.40 $7,520 $90,280
Rhode Island $48.45 $8,400 $100,770
South Carolina $39.29 $6,810 $81,720
South Dakota $35.67 $6,180 $74,200
Tennessee $37.52 $6,500 $78,050
Texas $44.94 $7,790 $93,480
Utah $41.18 $7,140 $85,660
Vermont $42.22 $7,320 $87,810
Virginia $43.53 $7,550 $90,540
Washington $53.43 $9,260 $111,140
West Virginia $38.12 $6,610 $79,280
Wisconsin $43.75 $7,580 $91,000
Wyoming $42.49 $7,360 $88,370



HIGHEST PAID PHYSICAL THERAPY NURSES


What Are The 10 Highest Paying States For Physical Therapy Nurses?


The highest paying states for a physical therapy nurse are listed below. Currently, the highest paying state is California, where you can earn an average annual salary of $146,750 a year. The other of the 10 highest paying states for physical therapy nurses will have you earning anywhere from $103,280 to $127,600 a year.

Rank State Average
Annual Salary
1 California $146,750
2 Hawaii $127,600
3 Massachusetts $117,160
4 Oregon $117,130
5 Alaska $115,960
6 Washington $111,140
7 New York $109,260
8 Nevada $109,250
9 New Jersey $104,340
10 Connecticut $103,280


What Are The 10 Highest Paying Metros For Physical Therapy Nurses?


As you saw, California pays the most for a physical therapy nurse. Now, let's break it down by which areas or metros in California pay the most. The highest paying metro area in California with an average annual salary of $181,610 is San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA. In the other 9 highest paying metros for physical therapy nurses, all of which are in California, the salary ranges from $136,160 to $178,770.

Rank Metro Average
Annual Salary
1 San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $181,610
2 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $178,770
3 Vallejo-Fairfield, CA $173,020
4 Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA $163,530
5 Salinas, CA $160,870
6 Santa Rosa, CA $151,960
7 Modesto, CA $147,390
8 Stockton-Lodi, CA $141,030
9 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA $137,690
10 Redding, CA $136,160



Top Organizations And Associations For Physical Therapy Nurses


American Physical Therapy Association: This organization for a physical therapist will provide you with the most current information in the field of physical therapy. By joining this association, you will also have access to scientific literature and well as expert content to enhance your practice. You will also find that you will have the opportunity of expanding your network through the association because you will be able to meet with other chapters.

American Nurses Association: The American Nurses Association provides the nurse with basically everything that you will need to practice. You can easily access resources such as educational classes and also find out information regarding maintaining your license. You will also find information regarding advanced practice and certification. It is a one-stop shop for nurses.


My Final Thoughts


So, there you have it- the top 10 pros and cons of being a physical therapy nurse. It is not an easy job by any means, but it can be extremely rewarding. On the plus side, you'll have a rewarding career helping people recover from injuries and illnesses. You'll also enjoy good job security and relatively high pay. However, this career can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. It takes hard work and dedication to become a successful physical therapy nurse. If you're considering this career path, make sure you weigh the pros and cons carefully before making your decision. And after reading these pros and cons of being a physical therapy nurse, you decide if physical therapy nursing is right for you; I wish you all the best in your future endeavors!



FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR EXPERT


1. Is Physical Therapy Nursing A Good Career?

Yes, physical therapy nursing is a promising career. Not only will you be earning a fantastic living, but you will be helping people. You will be a valuable member of the health care team whose expertise will ensure that the patient is being treated from a multidisciplinary approach.


2. On Average, How Much Does A Physical Therapy Nurse Make Per Hour?

On average, you can expect to earn around $46.82 an hour as a physical therapy nurse. Depending on a few factors, this number will either be more or less. The first factor is your level of experience as a physical therapy nurse. The second factor is the state in which you are practicing in.

$46.82


3. How Many Hours Does A Physical Therapy Nurse Work?

The number of hours a physical therapy nurse works will depend on the type of job. Most physical therapy nurse jobs are Monday through Friday, about 8 hours a day if you work in an institutional setting. If you work in the homecare setting, you may find that your hours will vary to accommodate your patients' schedules. At times, you may have to work weekends to meet your patients' demands.


4. Is Being A Physical Therapy Nurse Stressful?

The career of a physical therapy nurse can be stressful at times. This can be due to a heavy caseload or complex patients and families. At times, you may feel stress from a patient who is just not progressing in the way you wish.


5. Do I Need To Be Certified To Work As A Physical Therapy Nurse?

You do not need to be certified as a physical therapy nurse to work. On the same note, you also do not need to be certified as a nurse or a physical therapist in order to work in this field.


6. What Certifications Are Required Or Recommended For A Physical Therapy Nurse?

There actually is not a specific certification that you can obtain as a physical therapy nurse. You may choose to become certified in a particular specialty such as geriatrics. As a physical therapist, you can also choose to become certified. Once again, it is not mandatory but will make you more marketable to employers.


7. How Long Does It Take To Become A Physical Therapy Nurse?

In order to become a physical therapist, you will need to complete your bachelor’s degree in nursing, which will take you around 4 years to complete. Next, you will need to earn your Doctorate of Physical Therapy which will take an additional 3-4 years to earn.


8. How Much Does It Cost To Become A Physical Therapy Nurse?

The cost to become a physical therapy nurse is quite expensive. A bachelor’s degree in nursing will cost you anywhere from $8,590 to $112,890 for a public institution and $16,710 to $201,610 for a private institution. The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree will cost you around $80,000 more.


9. What Is The Difference Between A Physical Therapy Nurse And Physical Therapist?

A physical therapy nurse is able to provide nursing care and physical therapy to a client. A physical therapist is only able to provide physical therapy.


10. What Kind Of Career Advancement Opportunities Are There For Physical Therapy Nurses?

Career advancements as a physical therapy nurse can range from earning additional education. You can earn certifications from the nursing perspective and from the physical therapy perspective. The certifications, education, and experience you have can have open up higher-paying jobs for you.


Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.