Why You Need To Encourage & Represent Wellness as a PT

Written by Andrew Moran, SPT of RehabinMotionDPT.com


As physical therapists, we are well aware of how hard work, determination, and passion can drive us to complete our goals. We’ve had to endure the battles of PT school that taught us the valuable lessons of learning how to survive with negative money, long days, short nights, our lovely professors that need daily help setting up the audio equipment for their lectures, and 40 other people that become your best friends through the most unfortunate experiences imaginable. With most schools producing doctorate level clinicians, we have collectively worked hard through at least 7 years of school to establish ourselves as rehabilitation and movement experts. Through this process, while we may not notice it, we have also become experts in something else. We are experts in perseverance, motivation, and achievement.

One of the most important concepts that I have learned through my physical therapy education filled with countless tests, practicals, and projects, is that the best way for me to learn something is to implement it myself so that I can then reproduce it or teach it effectively and with credibility. If I know that this concept is true, shouldn’t I be implementing what I’ve learned to my patients? Who better than us to encourage our patients that positive health changes can be made? We have spent far too much of our time and resources over the years becoming Physical Therapists to not pass on this proverbial baton to our patients.

As Part of the APTA Healthy People Vision, our roles as Physical Therapists is to “further the profession's role in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of movement dysfunction and the enhancement of physical health and functional abilities of members of the public.

The APTA also describes that part of our practice is to “provide prevention and promote health, wellness, and fitness” and suggests that we can be involved in primary, secondary, or tertiary prevention.

The Importance of Health Promotion as a PT

With the growing knowledge and emphasis on how to prevent chronic diseases that are due to poor lifestyle choices, the need for health promotion is well established. Many healthcare professionals, including physical therapists, are needed to lead and develop health promotion plans and strategies

I’ll spare you a lecture on the benefits of health and wellness (This is the time where you dust off your old ACSM book or purchase the updated version coming in March of 2017).

From the perspective of a PT, promoting health helps you to have a lasting impact on your patients. Our profession is based upon creating long-term beneficial change in the patients that we treat. We know that what we do is not a “quick-fix” method of health-care that gets short term results and then fades away in 2 weeks.  Neither is living a healthy lifestyle.  If we are able to promote this to our patients, it helps build trust with them and can contribute to improving your treatment experiences.

How are we doing as a profession with this topic?

A study was performed to gain an understanding on this very question to allow us to assess ourselves as a profession and how much we are promoting wellness to our patients:

“When health promotion statements were made, they were primarily in the 'physical' category (an average of 1.93 of the 2.44 total). For example, 172 out of the 218 (79%) total health promotion statements were in the 'physical' category.”

“The percentage of time physical therapists thought they assisted with nutrition and overweight issues and smoking cessation was low (19% and 17%)”


The study then compared these statistics to how often these physical therapists took the next step in assisting their patients with programs to help them improve in these areas.  

  • 58% of PTs reported helping patients improve their physical activity
  • 48% of PTs reported helping their patients with their psychological well being
  • 19% of PTs reported helping their patients with nutrition and weight loss

While these results may seem encouraging, it seems that just over half of PTs provide steps for patients to improve their physical activity, and once again only 19% percent provide methods to improve nutrition and weight loss. The take home? This research study demonstrates that PTs do care about the health and wellness of our patients, however we definitely have room for improvement in taking the next step to provide solutions to patients, especially with the topics of nutrition and weight loss.

We can have optimal impact on our patients with health and wellness by utilizing the principles of Self-Efficacy and Outcome Expectation:

  • Self-Efficacy in this context is defined as our beliefs as PTs that our patients will be able to carry out a course of action to complete a given goal.
  • Outcome Expectation is the belief that when the course of action is taken, it will produce the desired results.

The Bottom Line:

If we can unify the elements of knowing the importance of health and wellness for our patients, being aware that there is room for improvement for providing solutions to our patients, and taking action to improve our patient's lives, we will be able to greatly impact a greater amount of people that are in our sphere of influence.

Next Steps

  1. Become a Wellness Billboard: Examine how you can personally be representing what a healthy lifestyle looks like.
  2. Be an Empathetic Clinician: Ensure that you are communicating health & wellness with your patients to determine what their current status is.
  3. Provide Solutions: Take action to offer wellness programs to help patients make measurable change to their lives.

What are your thoughts? Have you already taken the next step to providing more to your patients? Leave a comment below or drop us a line on social media!