Physical Therapy Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

October 1, 2020

Physical therapy is an integral part of recovery for many patients. Interviews for physical therapy positions aim to understand your methods when treating patients as well as your educational and training background. To have the best chance of succeeding in your physical therapy job interview, you can review interview questions and prepare effective answers in advance. In this article, we explore common physical therapy interview questions and provide sample answers to help you prepare.

Common physical therapy interview questions

Questions are likely to range from standard questions about your qualifications and experience to more pointed questions about specific situations, including:

  • Why do you want to be a physical therapist?
  • What do you enjoy most about being a physical therapist?
  • What conditions have you successfully treated?
  • What is the hardest part of your job?
  • How many clients have you worked with in your career thus far?
  • Describe your best experience working with a client.
  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
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In-depth questions

The questions you are asked in a physical therapy interview may progressively require more details about your previous experience. Consider using the STAR method to form comprehensive and instructive answers. This method describes a specific situation you were in, the task you had, the actions you took and the results you reached.

Here are several in-depth questions you may encounter in a physical therapy interview:

  • What is the most common type of injury that your patients have?
  • When working with patients, how do you structure your physical therapy sessions?
  • Of all of your patients, which one affected you the most and why?
  • What training or educational practices do you use to stay up-to-date on best practices?
  • Are there any conditions you don’t feel comfortable treating with physical therapy?
  • What is the most important part of your physical therapy training, and how do you use it in practice?

Sample interview questions and answers

When possible, use the STAR method to help you create full and thoughtful responses. Here are some examples of common physical therapy interview questions and ways to answer them:

1. How do you set expectations and manage patient expectations during a long physical therapy plan to keep your patient motivated?

The interviewer may ask questions about your treatment process and how you manage patients. Use this question to describe conventional methods you employ with patients, the exceptions you make and your reasoning behind this process. This part of the interview can help employers understand what sessions with you might be like for their patients.

Example: “When I work with patients who have a long physical therapy plan, I focus on creating short achievable goals. These goals make it easier for patients to see the progress they are making, which helps them stay focused. I help them create daily, weekly and monthly goals while establishing physical achievement goals that do not have a time frame attached. This helps keep patients motivated since they don’t expect to achieve those goals soon and experience a huge spike in motivation when they achieve them.”

2. How do you deal with difficult patients who stagnate in their physical therapy achievements?

The ability to resolve conflicts with patients is also an important skill to have when working in physical therapy. Your answer should provide insight into how you treat difficult patients actionably and effectively. Focus on identifying the strategies you’ve used in the past and the ones you’d like to try in the future to ensure all patients receive quality treatment from you.

Example: “Being difficult could be the result of the frustration they’re feeling from stagnating. I look for ways of breaking through the plateau by adjusting the patient’s expectations and creating new achievable goals. That way, the client can make smaller steps toward their recovery, see they are making progress, recover some motivation and focus on making progress again.”

3. What was the hardest case you have worked on, and how did you handle it?

Physical therapy presents many unique challenges that you are likely to face during your employment. This question aims to identify what struggles you may have had in the past and determine how you used your dedication and problem-solving skills to continue. Focus on the solution to the problem and how you worked through it.

Example: “The hardest case that I have dealt with was a patient who was in a major car crash and damaged both legs. She had a lot of psychological trauma that she needed to work through but couldn’t wait until after physical therapy. I helped the patient by keeping her focused on the positives and setting achievable goals for each session. We adjusted her targets as she made progress so that each session was a challenge but also showed improvement.

I also tried to have her family involved when she was close to a breakthrough. Having them there for her milestones created a chance for both physical healing and psychological healing. By addressing both issues at the same time, we were able to stay on track. That way, she stayed motivated throughout her physical therapy. ”

4. How would you help a patient with [insert injury here]?

Some conditions and injuries may require special attention or methods. Use this question to apply the techniques and skills you acquired in school, clinicals and other professional and training experiences. Identify a specific injury you’ve worked with in the past and outline the strategy you took to approach the patient’s treatment.

Example: “I once had a patient who was recovering from a broken wrist after six weeks in a cast. She was eager to get back to her job, which required long periods of working on the computer. These activities involved small, quick movements in her hands and wrists as well as a full range of motion in that area.

I first asked the patient what her most common tasks were at her job, and we worked on exercises that targeted the systems used when completing those activities. Then, I would have her try to mimic those activities to get her body back into the rhythm.”