Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy
Clinical Resource for Therapists

cardiopulmonary physical therapy, monitor

Cardiopulmonary physical therapy is a sub-specialty within the field of physical therapy.  Clinicians working in this area of physical therapy focus on optimizing physical function for those with cardiopulmonary disease.

Added knowledge may be required to work in this practice environment.

Below we examine the typical patient diagnoses, employment environment, and continuing education options available for therapists interested in pursuing a career working with cardiopulmonary patients.

Common Patient Diagnoses

Cardiopulmonary PT focuses on the treatment of cardiovascular and pulmonary patients.  Of these patients, some typical diagnoses may include:

  • post myocardial infarction
  • Post coronary bypass surgery
  • coronary stent placement
  • Heart valve replacement
  • COPD
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis

There are of course many more patient diagnoses referred for physical therapy services.

Employment Environment

Cardiopulmonary therapists typically treat patients on an outpatient basis.

However, therapists working in an inpatient setting will also work with this patient population.

In the inpatient setting, patients are likely referred to physical therapy for initial activity following physician clearance. 

Therapists working with these patients will have closely monitor a patient's vitals, especially if it soon after a major cardiac event.

Depending on the hospital, therapists may be expected to follow specific cardiac pathway protocols. 

Therapists are also heavily involved in patient discharge planning to ensure the patient has everything needed after leaving the hospital.

In the outpatient setting, therapists work with patients following an acute cardiac event. 

Therapists work with the patient to incorporate long-term lifestyle changes including exercise steps to reduce risk factors.

Specialist Certification

There is also the option for therapists to get a specialist certification in cardiopulmonary physical therapy.

Clinicians are required to meet minimum eligibility requirements to become a cardiopulmonary specialist.

These include a set amount of clinical experience working with cardiopulmonary patients, an application to take the board exam, and a passing score on the board exam.

Be sure to check out the APTA website for updated eligibility requirements.

Clinician Resources

Continuing Education

Therapists interested in pursuing a career working in cardiopulmonary PT have a few options for continuing education.

Text books are a great resource and can help determine if you are interested in finding a physical therapy continuing education course.

The Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Section of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offers a membership to APTA members.

Members of this section have exclusive access to "members only" content including articles, journals, and newsletters.

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