What is a physiatrist?
This medical profession is a branch of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of diseases and primarily use physical means like physical therapy and other non-surgical methods. It is also referred to as physical medicine and rehabilitation. A physiatrist can either be a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) or Medical Doctor (M.D.). They may be referred to as a PM&R physician, physiatrist, or physical medicine and rehabilitation physician. The specialty of physiatrist began in the 1930’s but not until 1947 was it recognized as a medical specialty.
Job description of a Physiatrist
A physiatrist will specialize in a wide array of treatments for the musculoskeletal system which includes your associated nerves, bones, tendons, muscles, ligaments, and other structures. These disorders of your musculoskeletal are the ones that cause difficulty with functioning and/or pain. One thing that a physiatrist does not do is perform surgery. When they treat a patient they are trying to help them become as pain-free and functional as possible so they can participate and enjoy life as much as they can.
Some of the back conditions that a physiatrist might treat are:
- Ligament and muscle injuries
- Injuries from where you work
- Back pain, sciatica
- Myofacial pain
- Osteoarthritis and osteoporosis
- Spinal cord injury
- Ankylosing spondylitis
Some of the other medical conditions that a physiatrist might treat include:
- Birth defects like cerebral palsy
- Cardiac disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
They treat patients with both serious and minor physical injuries from automobile and motorcycle injuries or sport-related injuries. They can also treat serious health conditions like cancer. They may use assistive devices like artificial limbs, braces along with less traditional methods like heat therapy, electrotherapy, and massage. They may also prescribe medication to help with the pain. To help diagnosis what the problem might be a physiatrist may use diagnostic tools such as CT scans, MRI scans, PET scans, x-rays, nerve conduction studies, and more. A physiatrist will work with a variety of patients from children to the elderly. They may also coordinate and supervise an interdisciplinary team of medical professionals to make sure that all the patient’s needs are being met. Some of these medical professionals can include physical therapists, nurses, language and speech pathologists, social workers, prosthetics, and more
How to become a physiatrist?
As with most medical professions you need to exhibit academic excellence during your high school education and making sure that you are taking all the math and science classes your high school offers. If you plan to open your own practice you may want to try to take some business courses also like accounting and business management if they are offered. After graduation you will enroll in a college to get your bachelor’s degree in a major of your choosing but it would be to your advantage if you would elect a degree in biology, pre-med, or some other science related degree. Once you have that you will take the Medical College Admission Test. You should start preparing for this test in your junior year in college as the field is competitive to get into medical college so you will need an acceptable grade.
Once you are in medical school you will have 2 years of classroom and laboratory work and the last 2 years you will do clinical rotations. Before you graduate from medical school and start your residency you have to take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination. In your first year of residency you will be focusing on internal medicine (general practice). The other 3 years of your residency will concentrate on specialty training along with learning and exploring rehabilitation programs and the ins and outs of physical medicine analysis.
After you have finished your 4 years of residency you can choose to complete a fellowship that will let you specialize in more training in particular forms of treatment like:
- Pain management—this is the treatment of many types of chronic pain and will also have additional specialty training in using injections to treat pain and how to give the injections,.
- Spine—this is the treatment of sciatica, back pain, or any form of dysfunction or pain that originates in your spine.
- Brain injury—this is the treatment of patients who have had a stroke and need rehabilitation
- Sports medicine—this the treatment of any injury from playing sports
- Pediatric medicine—this is treating patients under the age of 18
- Spinal cord injury—this is for rehabilitation
- Traumatic injuries—this is for treatment and rehabilitation of patients who have had a car or motorcycle accident or a traumatic injury at home or work.
- Geriatrics—this is the treatment and rehabilitation of elderly patients and helping them stay independent as long as possible.
Doing a fellowship will require 2 years to complete but it can help you receive a larger salary. Once you have finished your fellowship if you have chosen one or finished residency you are now ready to practice your field of medicine. You can also choose if you want to be board certified by the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. It is very important that you keep your licenses and board certification updated and renewed when it is time.
Work environment and schedule
A physiatrist may work in a group practice, private practice, in a hospital, retirement home, nursing home, physical therapy centers, and rehabilitation centers. Many work as an employee of a Spine Hospital or Spine Center. The hours that they would work would depend on their workplace but because of the type of treatment they provide it would be unusual for them to be on-call but they can work 4-5 days a week Monday thru Friday, work weekends, and may even have some evening hours to accommodate their patient’s schedule.
Many of the patients that a physiatrist will see are referrals from other medical professionals if they have their own private practice or work in a group practice although they can have patients that have called their office for an appointment. If they work in a retirement home or nursing home they may be assigned a certain number of residents to treat. When working in a hospital setting those jobs are often the most intensive due simply to the fact that they will be working with patients that have become injured recently. Depending on the type of injury the patient may be at the hospital for a certain period of time so a physiatrist will be working with them during their stay working to help them to regain the use of muscles. This is very important especially if they are recovering from a medical condition like a stroke or an injury.
If they are treating patients in a residential setting the physiatrist will center their treatment plan on getting the patient back to living independently as much as possible. It is possible that by the time the patient is transferred to a rehabilitation or residential center they will probably already had some physical therapy so the physiatrist would just take over the treatment to help the patient progress further until they can be independent and care for themselves.
When they see the patient they will look at their medical history, ask the patient what their symptoms are, where they are hurting, how it happened, and then will create a personalized treatment plan for them. Usually the personalized treatment plan will require lifelong changes. The treatment plan could include treatment from other medical professionals, psychologists, counselors, or social workers. When treating patients they focus on treating them as a whole person. Sometimes in addition to requiring medical treatment the patient may also need emotional, social, and vocational counseling. Although the treatment plan is customized for each patient the end result is the same and that is to relieve their pain and help to improve their quality of life by using methods other than surgery. A physiatrist may also use an electro diagnostic medicine to help determine the areas of nerve and muscle damage.
Physiatrist job growth
For the next couple of years, the employment rate for physiatrists is projected to increase by 17%-18%, a lot faster than in most fields. The job prospects are expected to be good and with more opportunities in the field can be taken into consideration also the rural areas. There is still plenty of job potential in those areas as well, depending where you’d like to start your work.
The growth for these professionals is also driven by the considerable expansion of the healthcare industry and the number of cases that are in need for the aid of these professionals. The job satisfaction is great since physiatrists are in need for various age patients that have undergone surgery and need rehabilitation and medication and not only. The future outlook for this job is very satisfactory since there are plenty of sites where these professionals can find work without a shortage added to this career.
Physiatrist job opportunities are to be found everywhere across the US and are very high demanded due to the nature of the job – a life free of pain or almost without it by using non-surgical methods.
The average yearly physiatrist salary is $134,997 – $222,943. They can also receive a yearly bonus of $5,014 – $35,608 on average per year. Again the average yearly salary of a physiatrist depends on where they are working, their geographical location, their work experience, and their specialties. It is a very high paying medical field with a physiatrist having 1 – 4 years experience making an average yearly salary of $184,022. Although the salary of a physiatrist is not as high as a neurosurgeon it is quite competitive. There are even some very experience physiatrists that are making an average yearly physiatrist salary of over $420,000. On average a physiatrist who works for private companies are the ones that will make the most money
There is also the benefit package that goes along with this and it can be quite lucrative. Check your benefit package carefully before you accept a job to make sure that it has what you want and need. Most benefit packages include health insurance that may include the entire family, life insurance, dental insurance, vision coverage, paid vacation days, paid sick days, personal days, shift differential at some jobs where you would be required to work split shifts, second or third shifts, pension, social security, 401K, profit sharing, and malpractice insurance. If you work where you may be on call the benefit package may include a cell phone or a stipend when using your personal cell phone. In addition, if your job requires you driving to various clinics, rehab centers, etc they may also include mileage reimbursement. Uniforms may also be included in the benefit package if your place of employment requires uniforms.
The average yearly physiatrist salary according to various factors includes:
- Working for an organization or company that employs 10 – 49 people earn $152,283 – $280,284
- Having a certification from the American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation earn $152,605 – $250,000
- Those who have a specialty in pain management earn $51,064 – $318,082.
- Have a Doctor of Medicine degree earn $102,129 – $411,060
It is also shown that women earn on average a yearly salary of $148,738 – $245,659 while men earn on average a yearly salary of $75,000 – $399,959.
The average yearly physiatrist salary in the top 5 states is:
- $218,180 in Minnesota
- $212,180 in Indiana
- $209,380 in Georgia
- $205,680 in New Hampshire
- $205,410 in Nevada
The lowest average yearly physiatrist salary in the lowest 5 states is:
- $151,080 in Illinois
- $150,600 in Delaware
- $150,490 in Maryland
- $141,250 in Nebraska
- $126, 380 in Rhode Island
Physiatrist Salary in 2016
A physiatrist income for the year 2016, in the United States, varies greatly according to some influential factors that affect the earnings but usually stand to be relatively high. The most encountered factors in the increase or decrease of payment are based on the industry, company size, the level of education, geographical location, and let’s not forget about the years of experience that one has gained in the field. The set of skills is very important and necessary in this particular branch leading you to be a very successful physiatrist.
In other words, your income is mainly dictated by the company in which you are being hired. The years of experience will take you to a higher salary and will grant you more benefits. The national average pay for these professionals is estimated to be around $201,105 per year according to some of the sources while based on other the average income reaches around $116,100 per year. On a simple base, the income of these specialists is being comprised between $135,010 per year and up to $222,968 per year or even higher.
According to the demographic factor, the earnings also vary according to each state and city. The higher incomes offered that are above the national average are to be found in Sacramento, California, or Washington, DC, and other. The cities that are below the national average can be found in regions such as San Antonio, Texas or Fort Worth, Texas and other. The salaries are mainly influenced by the costs of living, the living expenses and the number of demanding.
The healthcare industries pay a lot better than the jobs offered for physiatrists in Pharmaceutical facilities or education, government agencies and other nonprofit organizations. The income also varies if you are in the public sector or the private one, even as a self-employed you earnings are different then of other specialists in the same branch.
Physiatrist salary in Canada, Australia and UK
- UK—on average their yearly salary is 94,000 while the lowest average yearly salary is less than 12,255.
- Australia—the average yearly salary is AU$10,213 – AU$78,297.
- Canada—the average yearly salary is C$35,850 – C$184,000
Conclusion on physiatrist salary
On average starting salaries for a physiatrist is $201, 000 a year but again it depends on many different factors. For the first 5 – 10 years working as a physiatrist you will see your salary increase somewhat. To get a higher way you would need to have a skill in pain management. Once you have 20 years experience as a physiatrist you can have an average yearly salary of $250,000, which is the top tier or cut off for going any higher in pay working as a physiatrist. There may be some exceptions but it depends on the state and city and employer where you are working if you are not in private practice. This is a high paying field of medicine that offers a wide array of working environments. For those that want to help patient’s to have a life that is pain free or almost pain free using non-surgical methods a physiatrist would be one of the medical professions that you can choose. Working in a large city instead of a rural area can help to ensure that you will be earning a high starting physiatrist salary.
- First Published Date: 25 June, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 17 August, 2016