The Physical Therapist Workforce in the US: Supply, Distribution, Education Pathways, and State Responses to the COVID-19 Emergency

Authors: Natalia Oster, PhD, MPH | Susan Skillman, MS | Benjamin Stubbs, MPH | Arati Dahal, PhD | Grace Guenther, MPA | Bianca Frogner, PhD

Topics: COVID-19, Education and Training, Workforce Demand, Workforce Supply

Research Center: University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies

December 14, 2020

The traditional role of physical therapists is to prescribe exercises and provide hands-on care to help patients develop, maintain, and restore functional ability that may be limited by injuries, aging, and chronic or progressive diseases. A primary impact of the COVID-19 emergency on physical therapists has been an involuntarily reduction of employment due to a decline in elective surgeries and the closure of many sites where physical therapy is delivered.

This brief examines the supply, distribution, and education pathways of physical therapists as well as state responses to the pandemic for the workforce.

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University of Washington Center for Health Workforce Studies