Physical therapists play an important role in the overall health and well-being of Missourians. They work with all ages, from newborns to our most elderly residents. They diagnose and treat individuals who have trouble moving, whether it be the result of an auto accident, a physical disability, or some other reason.
According to the Missouri Division of Professional Registration, there are approximately 3100 licensed professionals who provide physical therapy care in the state. As can be expected, the more heavily populated areas have the greatest proportion of PTs. However, in rural counties or in areas where large numbers of residents are uninsured or where medical facilities such as hospitals are in short supply, there are few licensed physical therapists.
A recent report from the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration reveals the counties that have the highest percentages of uninsured residents. For example, nearly 1/3 of working-age adults living in Knox County are uninsured, and there are no practicing physical therapists. Here’s a breakdown:
Access to Licensed PTs in Counties with High Uninsured Rates
*15.3 – 21.9% of residents in these counties were uninsured in 2016.
Projected Demand for Physical Therapy Care in Missouri
Demand for physical therapists will continue to grow across the state in the coming years. Based on data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for physical therapists in Missouri is projected to grow nearly 23% by 2026, much faster than the average for most other occupations – driven significantly by lifestyle choices. On average Americans are living longer, which is great—but rates for obesity, diabetes, and other chronic conditions are increasing. Our population is also becoming more sedentary because we’re spending more and more time attached to our electronic devices. As a result, our bodies are suffering the consequences of inactivity and sitting for long periods.
Meeting Supply & Demand Needs
According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), there are seven Missouri universities that have nationally accredited physical therapy programs. These programs supply the licensed PT professionals for our state each year:
At the present time, there appears to be no one tracking where these graduates go after they complete their program and receive their state license. The Missouri Division of Professional Registration maintains a database of licensees but not all individuals who hold a license are practicing in the Show-Me State. Legislation was passed a couple of years ago to allow for the collection of workforce data. As a result of this mandate, the Missouri Board of Registration for the Healing Arts will be collecting additional data on physical therapists and physical therapist assistants during the next license renewal cycle; it expects to make these data available sometime during the summer of 2020.
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Top Photo Credit: MU Healthcare