How To Become a Physiatrist

Physical therapist with old patient

A physiatrist is a doctor who specializes in rehabilitation. Should you decide on becoming a physiatrist, you will be handling comprehensive management programs of patients with disabilities and impairments arising from vascular, musculoskeletal and neuromuscular disorders.

Here are a few tips that can help get you started on becoming a physiatrist:

  • First of all, you need to exhibit academic excellence, even during your high school education. Take science and math classes in all years of your high school. It will be more advantageous if you could also take advanced classes and honors classes. Future physiatrists are expected to have good study habits, as these will be necessary in the course of your medical schooling.
  • Go for a pre-med undergraduate degree. Select an accredited college or university for your undergraduate degree. You can opt for degrees like biology, and the like. You will also need to take the MCAT before you can get into a medical school. You must prepare for this exam so that you will get an acceptable grade and qualify for the medical school of your choice. Once in medical school, you will need to undergo four years of training before you can become eligible for residency position.
  • Your residency must be completed before you can become a full pledged physiatrist, and this usually takes about four years. Your first year will be dedicated to developing your general medical skills and the next couple of years will be devoted to exploring and learning the ins and outs of physical medicine analysis and rehabilitation programs.
  • There are other fellowships available if you want to specialize. A few examples of these programs include traumatic injuries, sports medicine, pain management, geriatrics, pediatrics, musculoskeletal and neuromuscular rehabilitation and neurological cases. Should you decide to take up fellowships, it will require you another two years or more in the study.
  • You must obtain your medical license and certification. Your doctor’s license will have to come from your state licensing board. You can also choose to be certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
  • Once you pass the board exams, you can now practice medicine. Physiatrists work in outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation and treatment programs. You may work in hospitals or engage in private practice. Working as a consultant is also an option.
  • Always remember to keep your licenses and other necessary educational requirements renewed and updated. These are all required when practicing your profession. Failure to renew licenses and other important documents can result in suspension or other penalties.

Aside from private practice, you may also consider joining other teams of practitioners like therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists and other physiatrists who have different subspecialties. This will give your patients the widest range of caring options, and this can also help you get patient referrals.

You need patience and determination in this line of profession. However, it is gratifying that you will be helping a lot of people, especially those who are in need of physical rehabilitation.


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