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Education and Training: College, medical school, and a year-long internship followed by three-four years of physiatrist residency
Average Salary: $199,343 per year
Job Outlook: Good

A physiatrist is a physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation. A physiatrist helps in restoring optimal function of patients who have sustained injuries to muscles, tissues, and the nervous system. The underlying philosophy for a physiatrist is to provide help with restoring the optimal functionality within the limitation placed upon their patients due to a disease, accident, or disorder, for which there is no cure. This is typically done by the combined use of medicines, physical training, movement and activities modification, and adaptive equipment and assistive devices.
Physiatrists need to perform electro-diagnostics for diagnosing various neuromuscular disorders. Physiatrists treat conditions such as musculoskeletal pain syndrome, sports injury, spinal cord injury, amputation, stroke rehabilitation, carpal tunnel syndrome, and traumatic brain injury. Physiatrists are also required to help with cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and chronic pain management. Physiatrists are trained to perform musculoskeletal and neurologic examinations.

Education and Training Requirements

Physiatrists are required to complete 4 years of medical school followed by one year of internship for the development of fundamental clinical skills. They are also required to clear the oral and written board certification examination in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Subsequently, physiatrists need to complete a three to four year internship, caring for hospitalized patients admitted for general rehabilitation (neurologic disorders such as multiple sclerosis, Guillain Barre syndrome, complicated amputations, and Myasthenia Gravis), stroke, spinal cord injury, brain injury, and pediatrics (muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy). After completing their physiatrist residency, they also have the option to pursue a fellowship program in a sub-specialty of their choice. Common sub-specialties for physiatrists include neuromuscular medicine, spinal cord injury medicine, pediatric rehabilitation, and pain medicine.

Getting the Job

Over and above their educational requirements, physiatrists should be aware of the latest treatments for specific conditions. They should be calm and have strong interpersonal skills for educating patients about their conditions and communicating with the patient’s families. They need to have a desire to serve patients. They must be emotionally mature as they often face situations requiring tough decision-making and they need to be rational in making such decisions. They must have good bed-side manners and excellent communication skills.
Physiatrists tend to spend a considerable amount of time in education and practice and therefore they must be mentally tough to withstand the pressures of such a demanding career.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

The job prospects for physiatrists are very good and employment opportunities are expected to grow by 20% for 2008-2018. Factors that will fuel the demand for physiatrists include a growing and aging population and the advancement in healthcare facilities permitting the survival of a greater number of trauma victims or those born with congenital disorders.
To further enhance their job prospects, physiatrists can pursue higher education and gain experience in a sub-specialty.

Working Conditions and Environment

The work environment for physiatrists varies depending on their area of specialization and the place of employment. Physiatrists might opt for a private practice, or work in a multi-specialty group-setting. They often work with educational organizations, private hospitals and clinics, and rehabilitation facilities.
Physiatrists typically treat referral patients and act in consulting roles. Common referrals for physiatrists come from orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, oncology, and rheumatology. The lifestyle for physiatrists is reasonable with adequate personal time. Physiatrists might sometimes need to visit their patients; either in their homes or in hospitals. Physiatrists might need to work during evenings, nights, or weekends.
The work might be stressful but it offers immense satisfaction to see the patients optimize their quality of life and perform reasonably well within the limitations placed upon them by their specific condition.

Salary and Benefits

According to salary.com, the annual median salaries for physiatrists was $199,343. As per the Association for Academic Physiatrists, the typical annual salary for a first year out-of-residency physiatrist varied between $95,000 and $200,000. Other benefits offered to full-time salaried physiatrists include paid insurance, annual vacations, retirement benefits, and licensure fees.

Where to Go for More Information

American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
9700 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200
Rosemont, Illinois 60018
(847) 737-6000

Association of Academic Physiatrists
7250 Parkway Dr., Ste. 130
Hanover, MD 21076
(410) 712-7120

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