I do not compare myself or any Personal Fitness Trainer (PFT) to PT (Physical Therapist), but rather an extension there of.
I sort of laugh that so many PFT have difficulty emotionally differentiating themselves from the PT. Being in my middle ages, I guess accepting and appreciating the difference comes from time, and experience, as well as maturity.
The MD diagnosis the issue, and recommends or refers to the PT. Often times it is out of ignorance of non-invasive options that the MD does this. Other times it comes of a desire to avoid invasive options if possible, as should always be done.
The PT has spent years learning these non-invasive modalities. Like most “prescription” or other medical healing or “corrective” modalities, PT is costly and has a short time to both be implemented and work. The outcomes can be limited, particularly on a shorter term basis. However, on the longer term, with continual and strict adherence to therapy, outcomes can be improved and reach near or 100% success.
In my practice as a PFT, I have had the opportunity and privilege to work with multiple MD’s, and PT’s overseeing individuals and “special populations” rehabbing from injury, surgery, cardiovascular, pulmonary, spinal and other events or incidents. I tend to look at these experiences as “apprenticeships” and learning opportunities.
While I do not diagnose, I do not hesitate to continue or base my exercise prescription for a client in part on that which they are/were doing in PT. Often I will suggest to a client (potential or otherwise) to have their PT and I communicate or otherwise correspond as they complete or are released from PT. I have in more serious or unusual cases actually gone the extra mile to (with their permission and that of the PT) accompany them to PT as their program winds down.
So….in summary, I do not see myself as “able to rehab a client as well as a PT”, because it would be redundant. I see my role as an extension of the PT in the case of rehab. MD’s diagnose, PT’s implement, PFT’s develop adherence and compliance.
The PFT has the “opportunity” to turn a rehab client into a “preventative re occurrence and healthy whole body” individual. Sometimes injury or incident is a “wake-up” call to people that they need to become active, fit or learn how to do what it is they are doing that got them injured in the first place. These are the area’s beyond typical, or traditional fitness that a PFT can develop a niche in.
There was recently an article that stated that doctors (MD’s) are reluctant to “prescribe” or “refer” patients to fitness professionals because they themselves were ignorant of exercise or who and what qualifications one should have. Fitness is not a part of medical school training, and so that further added their reluctance.
On the other hand many fitness facilities partner with PT facilities or PT individuals. Though in many if not most cases the referrals are few and far between, this is something that can be nurtured and should be as it is beneficial to both the PT, PFT and above all to the patient/client.
Again, as another answer suggests, I see the MD, PT, and PFT working collaboratively, not competitively. We would all do better learning to develop such a model of collaboration as it not only would benefit each of us, but the client population as well.