As a physical therapist, you are a healthcare professional that works directly with a variety of patients to aid in improving their physical functioning and their overall mobility. It is your job to assist patients that have injuries, illnesses, and an assortment of disabilities to regain their ability to move properly, manage any pain that may be experienced, and optimize their general quality of life. You must ensure – at a minimum – that you are “good”. What you really want, though, is to be great. In this guide you will learn how to go from good to great as a physical therapist.

Physical Therapist with Patient

Astute Assessments

A “good” physical therapist will see what is bothering a patient – such as a hip, but a “great” physical therapist is able to identify WHY that hip is resulting in challenges for their patient.

Conducting “astute assessments” means that you’re able to show an ability to assess situations and people accurately. You’ve honed your observational skills so that you are detailed and accurate in identifying problems. As a result, you are capable of coming up with solid steps to solve those problems.

High Level of Compassion

All too often, patients feel as if doctors and other healthcare professionals lack compassion for them, their health issues, and what they experience as a result of those health issues.

To be more than just a “good” physical therapist, you need to be highly compassionate towards your patients and their family members.

In doing so, you will make your patients and those around them feel comfortable. If you are compassionate, your patients and their loved ones will feel as if you genuinely care about their well-being. As a result, they will be more willing to put in the effort and the work to get from where they are to where they need to be.

Be Realistic

The truth of the matter is, that there will be some disorders, injuries, and conditions that are difficult to treat. Many will not have a cure.

To be a great physical therapist, you must be realistic.

This is especially true when it comes to patient outcomes.

Yes, it is acceptable to be an encourager and a motivator, but you should never create or even encourage expectations with your patients that are – at their core – considered to be unrealistic. It is acceptable to be a straight shooter when it comes to outcome expectations, but do it with kindness.

Be Humble

While it is true that you should carry yourself with confidence and you should have an appreciation for your capabilities, it is also true that patients and their loved ones prefer humble therapists to those that are full of pride.

In order to be truly humble, you must approach each day with the mindset that you will learn from others – both those you work with and the patients that you serve.

Remember, experience is the best educator. Because of this, your patients are the true educators. You should respect them as such. Each and every single day and each and every single patient is an opportunity to learn. Be humble and accept this fact.

Studying is important

Consistently Search for Knowledge

A good physical therapist will receive knowledge, but a great physical therapist will consistently search for knowledge. Make it a point to learn as much as you can and as often as you are able to.

To provide solutions for your physical therapy patients, make it a habit to read, consult with colleagues, invest time in reviews and journals, watch videos, and engage in any other source that is pervasive and detailed.

By consistently searching for knowledge, you are becoming a lifelong learner. Not only will you find that you benefit from this, but your patients appreciate your motivation to excel.

Patient and Focused

By the time that your patients have made their way to you, there is no telling what they have gone through and experienced. Pain, discomfort, financial burdens, discomfort, relationship problems – you just do not know what an injury or illness has done to a patient and how it has impacted their life.

When you see each patient, look at them as if they are the only patient you have. Stay patient and 100% focused on them.

The patients you see may have waited weeks or months to see you. They are hanging on to the hope that you are capable of assisting them. You should act appreciative of their business and make them feel as if you will do whatever is possible to aid in improving their life.

Stay patient and focused with each patient and you will gain a solid reputation of being one of the best in your field. Naturally, this can render you highly successful.

High Level of Integrity

By being open and honest and doing what it is that you say you are going to do, you are displaying high levels of integrity. Each patient relationship that you work to develop should be built on high levels of trust.

Provide a high level of integrity by exhibiting the strongest of all ethic-based principles and acting in the best interest of each patient in an honest manner.

Physical therapists that prove that they have a high level of integrity are viewed as “great”.

A Positive Attitude

It means a lot to be better than “good” – to be “great”. This is especially true when you work in the medical field. One of the easiest ways to up your game is to have a positive attitude.

When you are positive around patients, it really goes a long way to shaping the reality of those around you in the time that you spend with them.

Being positive is more than tinting everything in a rose-colored lens. It is redirecting negative thoughts, focusing on improvements, and being optimistic.

Patients who face negative events and situations in their lives are immensely grateful for healthcare professionals who are capable of bringing a bit of positivity into their lives.

Attentive to Details

If you want to go from good to great as a physical therapist, you should be highly attentive to details. Even the smallest of changes in the physical aspect of a patient’s condition may significantly impact their treatment plan.

By being attentive to details and subtle changes, you can quickly adjust a patient’s treatment plan. In turn, this can help that patient experience a more positive outcome.

Genuine Love for Helping Others

If you want to be considered “great” as a physical therapist, it is important that you display a genuine love for helping others, a true passion for it.

Commit to the success of your patient. Dedicate yourself to going above and beyond to provide the care necessary for success.

A passion for helping others will motivate and encourage patients to achieve their goals. It will help patients push through their treatment plans – even when they lack the motivation to do it for themselves.

By exhibiting a passion in people, you are capable of igniting passion in people.

Highly Resilient

Working with patients is no easy endeavor. Your patients come from all backgrounds and are all unique in their own way. They have their ups and they have their downs. On some days, you will be their savior and on other days, you are the enemy.

If you are highly resilient, it means that you are capable of adapting appropriately to each situation, and have the ability to respond in a positive way at any level of adversity.

You are not weak and you do not give into pressure. Patients need you to be their strength. By being resilient, you are all of that – and more!


Collaboration is the key to success. You should develop a partnership with each of your patients. You are on the same team. You should have the same goals.

Encourage open communication and always encourage your patients to provide feedback.

You will learn and grow. In turn, your patients will learn and grow. This will increase the satisfaction rating of your clients and their general outcome. It will also improve your ability to create treatment plans that result in outstanding patient outcomes. Be collaborative with your patients, their loved ones, and those that are part of their healthcare team and you will guarantee optimal success for your clients.

Join Us Today

As you can see by the information contained within this guide, there are many unique ways that you may go from “good” to “great” as a physical therapist. We here at Colorado Physical Therapy Network would like to encourage you to join us. We provide tools and resources to therapists like you that want to up their game and assist in the best outcomes for their patients. To learn more about us, you may contact us by calling the following number: 303-757-7004

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