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What is Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is concerned with:
Assessing, treating and preventing human movement disorders, restoring normal function or minimising
dysfunction and pain in adults and children with physical impairment, to enable them to achieve the highest
possible level of independence in their lives; preventing recurring injuries and disability in the workplace, at
home, or during recreational activities and promoting community health for all age groups.

Physiotherapists use:
Skilled evaluation, skilled hands on therapy such as mobilisation, manipulation, massage and acupressure;
individually designed exercise programmes, relaxation techniques, sophisticated equipment, hydrotherapy
and biofeedback, specialised electrotherapy equipment, heat, ice and traction to relieve pain and assist
healing and recovery, suitable walking aids, splints and appliances, patient education.

Where can you work?
One of the wonderful aspects of physiotherapy is the wide choice of work situations which you can enjoy.
You may choose to see patients in a particular age range - teaching a young mother in preparation for the
birth of her child; handling tiny babies with lung infections or cerebral palsy, coaxing older children
(and adults) to move again after surgery, injury or burns. You will learn to analyse and treat the aches and
pains of approaching middle age, and in old aged homes you may help the elderly to retain and regain their

Physiotherapists may work in:
•  Public and private hospitals
•  Private practice
•  Community health centres
•  Day care centres and nursing homes
•  Sports centres and with sporting teams
•  Schools and pre-schools
•  Research areas
•  Occupational health units
•  Training institutions
•  Health policy development units
•  Special centres for people with physical disabilities

Information courtesy of the South African Society of Physiotherapy (SASP) - www.physiosa.org
World Confederation of Physical Therapy : "What is Physical Therapy?
Video insert courtesy of the World Confederation of Physical Therapy (WCPT)
What do you need to study to become a Physiotherapist?

Undergraduate entrance requirements

Minimum entry requirements:
•  Matriculation exemption,
•  Pass at higher grade in English,
•  Pass at higher grade (or >50% at standard grade) in Mathematics.
•  General Science or Biology is recommended.

Credit is also given for sporting and cultural achievements as well as previous leadership roles and
involvement in social and community projects.
* All applicants are expected to have spent some time in a physiotherapy department in order to gain some first hand knowledge
of what the job entails.

Course Duration and Workload

The course requires 4 years of full-time study. The first year is based at the main Wits campus while years
2 - 4 are at the Medical School in Parktown. In the 3rd and 4th year students do clinical work in the
mornings in various hospitals, schools and clinics in Gauteng, lectures, tutorials and practicals occur in
the afternoons. The course is time consuming and involves considerable commitment from the students.
* Please note that all new graduates serve a period of 1year compulsory community service

     First Year

     First year focuses on giving students a grounding in the basic sciences and introduction to basic
     physiotherapy techniques.

     1. A student shall include in his/her curriculum for the 1st year of study:
      a)  APES 103 - Introduction to Medical Science (half course)
      b)  CHEM144 - Chemistry (half course)
      c)  PHYS142 - Physics (half course)
      d)  PSYC 103 - Introduction to Psychology I (half course)
      e)  PSYC104 - Basic Principles of Group and Individual Psychology I (half course)
      f)  SOCL105 - Human Behavioural Sciences (half course)
      g)  PHST 115 - Introduction to Physiotherapy


Second Year

      The following qualifying courses are prescribed for the second year of study:
      a)  ANAT221 - Anatomy for therapists
      b)  PHSL210 - Physiology and Medical Biochemistry I
      c)  PHST201 - Physiotherapy
      This year demands a lot of time from students. Many hours are spent dissecting human cadavers.
      Please note that during your physiotherapy practical you will be required to be partially undressed in
      front of your classmates. This is very important to practice the skills that will be used during clinical
      years. Please get permission beforehand from your respective religious denominations to undress if


Third Year

      During this year students start with clinical work in the mornings. Transport to most of the hospitals is
      provided. In the afternoons students return to medical school for lectures, tutorials and practicals.

      The following qualifying courses are prescribed for the third year of study:
      a)  PHST301 - Physiotherapy II
      b)  PHST307 - Rehabilitation I
      c)  PHST310 - Clinical Physiotherapy I
      d)  PHST311 - General Medicine and Surgery
      e)  PHAR306 - Pharmacology (half course)
(Note: the examinations in Pharmacology (PHAR306) will normally be conducted in June and the examinations in the other
         qualifying courses shall normally be conducted in November unless the Senate determines otherwise.)


      Fourth Year

      The structure of fourth year is similar to that in third year.
      The following qualifying courses are prescribed for the fourth year of study:

      a)  PHST407 - Rehabilitation II
      b)  PHST401 - Physiotherapy III
      c)  PHST410 - Clinical Physiotherapy II
      d)  PHST411 - Research Methodology (half course)
      e)  PHST210 - Management for Therapists (half course)

The examinations in Physiotherapy III, Clinical Physiotherapy II, and Rehabilitation II will normally be con-
ducted in October unless the Senate determines otherwise. The examinations for Research Methodology
and Management for Therapists will normally be conducted in May/June unless the Senate determines
otherwise. Students submit a research protocol as part of the requirements for completion of a degree with
Honours status.

On completion of their studies students are required to take the Hippocratic Oath and have to register with
the Health Professions Council of South Africa prior to practicing as a professional physiotherapist.

All students that graduate as physiotherapists throughout South Africa are required to complete one year
of community service after graduation. The Department of Health of South Africa arranges the community
service placements for all candidates.

For details about the postgraduate physiotherapy programme go to
post-graduate studies.

Information courtesy Wits University - www.wits.ac.za