Non-Clinical Skills Every Physical Therapist Need to Have

Physical therapists or PTs are at the front line of modern musculoskeletal expertise and knowledge. It is no wonder why DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) or PT programs, drills into more delicate points of musculoskeletal and neurorehabilitation disorders since active clinical practices keep these abilities fresh. It requires professionals to tap their expertise and scientific knowledge with every patient. 

But, successfully treating clients or patients, as well as running clinics, takes more than just an in-depth understanding of the human body. The most effective PTs have fully-developed sets of non-clinical strengths that these professionals can use at a moment’s notice. 

What types of skills should physical therapists have?

Any type of skills that are not medical is technically considered as non-clinical expertise. For instance, you are skilled at driving a vehicle; it will not help you when you are doing your clinical practice (well, unless you are providing transport services to your patients). 

That is why it is imperative to know the skills applicable to your role as a PT. The good news is, they are in an excellent position to refine and establish a host of non-clinical expertise. As a matter of fact, according to experts, a lot of non-clinical expertise comes naturally from the professional’s time with the patient doing patient care. 

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Their ability to prioritize tasks, educate, negotiate, collaborate, and iteratively solve problems, are just some of that critical expertise PTs build in the clinic. Let us start with some basics: general skills that every physical therapist should have in their tool belt.

Interpersonal skills

Every job in the world requires a degree of communication. Some roles need little interpersonal interaction – jobs like an office or clerical works. But the ability to collaborate and cooperate will eventually become pretty important for everyone. That is why interpersonal expertise is very important for physical therapists or any professionals in general to have in their arsenal.  These skills include (but not limited to):

  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Active listening
  • A knack for negotiation
  • The ability to motivate people
  • A strong penchant when it comes to teamwork

These abilities can significantly impact a physical therapist’s ability to achieve daily success. Active listening and penchant for teamwork can help professionals strengthen their relationship with their co-workers and other physicians. When a professional actively listen, they are better able to tune into the needs and wants of their peers and clients – and a complementary splash of teamwork will align focus and keep their relationship with other people more harmonious. 

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Externally, a knack for negotiation and patience is invaluable when they are communicating with patients. These physical therapist abilities can help them negotiate better contracts, as well as understand and prevent claim denials. 

Not only that, the ability of these professionals to emphasize and motivate other people can help them form more trusting and deeper connections with their clients or patients. It can increase the client’s buy-in, which means clients will be more likely to complete their home exercise program and make it to discharge.

How to get personal with other people in a good way

Fortunately, interpersonal expertise comes naturally to most PTs. The inherent desire to help other people, altruism, or empathy is usually the traits that can lead people to have a physical therapy career in the first place. It means that most professionals are already adept at working with other people. 

But unless they are Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa, there is always room for improvement. The best way to work on these physical therapist skills is to focus on monitoring yourself or self-awareness as you interact with other people and giving yourself more time for introspection. Looking at a particular situation from another perspective or reframing is also an excellent tool for your interpersonal skills. 

Sales and marketing savvy

We will roll two vast and comprehensive sets of skills under this label, but both revolve around retaining and attracting new clients. Physical therapists need to hone their sales and marketing savvy, but it boils down to this: professionals need to market their clinic and sell their services to potential clients to keep their doors open.

How to become an excellent salesperson and marketer

These skills are considered as the hardest skill to learn from PTs because they are a far cry from clinical experience, professionals learn in school – and they do not naturally fall under a PT’s regular work scope. In other words, no like interpersonal expertise, they are not easy to practice. 

That is why, if they want to improve their sales and marketing prowess, they need to make a conscious effort to hone and regularly use them. To gain these skills, professionals can volunteer to run social media channels or company blog sites or lead outreach initiatives with referral sources. PTs can also attend conferences and workshops aimed towards improving rehabilitation therapists’ sales and marketing savvy.


Ellen Cone