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Americans have been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic long enough to be used to its rhythms, but our proverbial "new normal" still isn't anywhere close to our "old normal." That's true for most of the country, and certainly for the physical therapy profession.

Today APTA released a follow-up to its original report on the impact of the pandemic, with new data gathered from a July survey of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. Within it are signs of progress and triumph, but the report also clearly illustrates the gravity of the situation.

Here are some of the notables based on the July snapshot:

Employment, visits, and income are improving … but slowly:

  • Of those who were laid off, furloughed, or resigned since the start of the pandemic, 55% returned to their previous position and 11% attained a new position, but 33% were still unemployed.
  • Physician referrals and direct access visits were trending upward, but 62% of PTs were experiencing physician referral declines compared with before the pandemic, and 39% of PTs were still seeing a reduction of direct access volume compared with before the pandemic.
  • 40% of PTs and 44% of PTAs still were experiencing declines in weekly income compared with before the pandemic.

Personal Finances Are Strained

  • 24% of PTs and 30% of PTAs reported that the pandemic was affecting the ability to pay essential bills and expenses.
  • 50% of PTs and 58% of PTAs reported that the pandemic was challenging their nonessential (flexible) spending. Of them, 64% of PTs and 68% of PTAs expected it would take longer than three months to return to previous levels of flexible spending.

Telehealth Is Widespread, But Not the Go-To

  • Prior to the pandemic, 98% of PTs surveyed were not providing live video consults. By July, 47% of PTs reported providing live video consults, but most of them (77%) were treating no more than five patients per week in that manner.

Career Pride Remains Strong

  • Despite all the hardships facing the profession, the pandemic is more likely to have increased career pride in PTs and PTAs than decreased it. While most reported no change in their career pride, 29% of PTs felt their career pride increased, compared with 11% who said it declined, while 31% of PTAs felt their career pride increased, compared with 17% who felt it declined.

See more in the updated report, including data on patient screenings, aerosol-generating procedures, and small business loans.


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