Unlocking Opportunities: 5 Reasons to Specialize in Oncology Physical Therapy

Picture this – you arrive at work, ready to go.  The old sinking feeling in your stomach, worrying about what patients you’re going to see & what overwhelming combination of impairments they have…is gone.  That sinking feeling is replaced by peace, even excitement to see what comes your way today.  Imagine making a real difference in the lives of oncology patients, finding fulfillment in your career, and opening up doors to incredible opportunities you can’t even imagine yet.

This isn’t a dream.  This can totally be reality.  Feeling confidently certain that you can address your patient’s impairments, no matter what diagnosis, what treatments, what complications they may face is possible.  

But the path to this competent confidence may be one you’re avoiding (intentionally or unintentionally).  Ready for it?  


There’s a ton of reasons why I keep talking about this topic, & in today’s episode, we’re exploring five fantastic reasons why 2023 should be the year you set your sights on this path and even consider sitting for the ABPTS Oncology Specialty Certification exam.

So, grab your favorite headphones and let’s embark on a journey that’s all about expertise, compassion, and making an impact that truly matters. Let’s get started! 🌟

1. Impacting the Lives of Your Patients

You possess a profound ability to positively influence the lives of your patients dealing with cancer. The unique challenges that cancer patients encounter extend beyond medical treatments; they encompass the physical and emotional toll that the disease and its treatments can take. 

By pursuing specialization in oncology physical therapy, you gain the expertise to address these challenges head-on, providing a crucial layer of care that contributes to patients LIVING AND THRIVING after their cancer diagnosis, not just surviving.  

Ultimately, specializing in oncology physical therapy sets you on a path to gain important knowledge, perspective, & critical decision-making that only benefits your patients.  

2. Rising Demand for Specialty Physical Therapy Care

The demand for specialized physical therapy services is growing daily, & OncoPT is no exception.  

As the field of oncology evolves and our understanding of cancer treatment improves, the need for experts who can provide tailored rehabilitation and support is overwhelmingly apparent.

You already know that oncology patients face unique challenges compared to other patient populations, further demonstrating the need for experts who understand the intricacies of cancer treatments and the specific needs of patients, making their interventions more impactful and beneficial.

If that hasn’t convinced you of this great need, then check out these stats:

We are anticipating that 50% of Americans alive in 2025 will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetime.  Simply put:

  • More patients diagnosed with cancer = more patients in need of cancer rehab
  • More patients SURVIVING after their cancer diagnosis
  • More patients living with long-term complications/side effects of cancer treatments
  • More patients living long enough to develop other issues in need of PT services

No matter the setting, the specialty, or the type of practice you work in, you WILL encounter patients with cancer & post-cancer.  Specialization ensures that these patients receive care appropriate for their needs & impairments from YOU.

3. Enhanced Clinical Skills & Expertise

No surprise here: specialization inherently requires a deeper focus on a specific area of practice. As you immerse themselves in the nuances of oncology, you develop a refined set of clinical skills that are tailored to the complexities of cancer-related impairments. 

This heightened level of expertise enables you to create personalized treatment plans that consider not only the physical limitations but also the emotional and psychological aspects of your patient’s journey.  

One of the most impactful benefits my students have noticed from specialization is anticipating potential complications before they happen.  With specialization, you command a comprehensive understanding of what your patients are experiencing, but also the potentials they could experience.  Not only is this helpful when you encounter *insert issue here*, but this catapults the effectiveness of your treatments because you can proactively manage potential complications & address ongoing complications for your patient.

Not only does this help you get your patients better more precisely, but you also save your patients time, money, & frustration over time.  Because if your interventions are more tailored to your patient’s needs because you know this from your specialization work, you address the impairment faster, your patient gets better faster, they’re happier because they’re not spending so much time with you, & they can get back to doing the things they actually *like* doing.

As you can see: the knowledge you gain doesn’t just help your patients now, but also their families, communities, & neighbors now AND in the long run.

4. Career Advancement & Opportunities

Aside from how specialization helps your patients, specializing also opens doors to a realm of exciting career advancement opportunities that extend well beyond your facility’s walls.

First, the decision to specialize signifies your commitment to professional growth. Your employer may have clinical ladders or other established “perks” of being a board-certified specialist.  This could mean increased status &/or compensation by your employer.

Additionally, specialization provides a platform for you to advance your career by becoming a go-to expert in the field.  Board certification serves as a testament to your dedication and proficiency in oncology care, earning credibility among your colleagues and peers. This recognition enhances not only personal reputation but also the overall reputation of the profession.

Next, specialization in oncology physical therapy can pave the way to leadership roles within organizations. Specialists are well-equipped to guide multidisciplinary teams, collaborating with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care. 

Moreover, the specialized knowledge gained through focused study equips therapists to engage in impactful research. Whether investigating novel rehabilitation techniques or contributing to the development of evidence-based practices, specialized therapists play a pivotal role in advancing the field.

Perhaps my favorite reason of all, as a specialist you have the capacity to drive positive change on a broader scale. Your insights can lead to the development of innovative interventions that enhance patient outcomes and quality of life. Additionally, you can become an educator, sharing your knowledge with aspiring physical therapists and inspiring the next generation of professionals to better treat oncology patients. This cycle of knowledge-sharing contributes to the ongoing growth and evolution of our field.

5. Personal & Professional Fulfillment

Specializing in oncology physical therapy goes beyond career growth; it taps into a wellspring of personal and professional fulfillment that stems from transforming the lives of your patients.

As we already discussed, you have a profound impact on your patient’s lives & quality of life.  By confidently & competently applying your expertise, you are helping your patients regain their independence & so much more.  Doesn’t that make you feel really GOOD?!

When I first started practicing, I felt a lot of frustration & even fear about if I was actually helping my patients with my plans of care.  After preparing for specialization, I am extremely confident with curating treatment plans & making them work for my patient.  

And this means I’m less stressed & fearful.  I can connect better with my patients to truly form a therapeutic alliance because I’m not freaking out all the time.

I genuinely wish I had this when I first started my big girl OncoPT job.  Because the satisfaction of knowing I’m doing good work is enormously comforting to me.  With that said, I’m really glad I pursued specialization as soon as I was able, because I know it made me a better PT.

If you’re worried that you’re not ready for specialization because you’re not an expert yet, hear this: 

We specialize to BECOME an expert.  When you better understand the side effects of cancer treatments, the cancer itself, the interventions best supported to address a patient’s impairments, you become the expert your patients need.

You don’t specialize because you’re an expert.  You specialize TO BECOME an expert.

Ready to dive deeper into oncology specialization?

If you’re ready to dive deeper into specialization, I’m hosting a FREE, live class all about how to get started on the specialization process with your ABPTS application: “Start (& Actually Finish) Your ABPTS Application.”

We’ll chat all about how to navigate the ABPTS Oncology Application, the most important part of your application (aka the case report), my best tips for selecting your patient case, & how to actually finish your case report BY THE UPCOMING DEADLINE ON SEPTEMBER 13!  

Make sure you save your seat today, & I’ll see you there!

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