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What it’s Like to be a PT in Portugal - Interview with Ricardo Vieira

by Meredith Victor Castin


Earlier this week, we took an inside look at what it's like to be a PT in Rwanda. Today, we continue to expand our global perspective with Ricardo Vieira. Ricardo sat down with us to share what it's like to be a PT in Portugal.

1. What is your name, where do you live, where did you attend school, and what year did you finish?

My name is Ricardo Vieira. I live in Viseu, a little city in the center of Portugal. I studied physiotherapy in one of the oldest and most beautiful universities in the world, called Coimbra. I graduated in 2011.

2. What made you become a PT? What type of education is required to be a PT in Portugal?

It's a very special story. My first course at university was informatics engineering, but I quickly realized that I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in front of a computer. I was then given the opportunity to transfer to physiotherapy.

I was interested in physiotherapy because of my personal experience with physio. When I was 8 years old, I broke my arm and needed emergency surgery. To fully recover and restore range of motion, I had to do physio.

Going through physio at this young age was an amazing and unforgettable experience, so I decided to take the opportunity to pursue physiotherapy as a career.

To be a PT in Portugal, you must finish secondary school and take the national exam. Your score on the national exam allows you to choose your course of study and the university you attend. A final selection is then made based on your grades. Once admitted to a university, the physiotherapy course duration is 4 years.

3. What is your official title in Portugal? (PT? Physio? Physiotherapist?)

In Portugal, the official title is a physiotherapist.

4. What is it like being a PT in Portugal as far as general daily tasks, responsibilities, interaction with other healthcare professionals, and the types of treatments you use?

Being a PT in Portugal is definitely challenging because we are a growing profession. Your daily tasks, responsibilities, and interactions with other healthcare professionals depend on where you work (hospital, multidisciplinary clinics, private physiotherapist practice).

I own my own physiotherapy clinics, so my responsibilities are a little bigger because I am responsible for both clinic management and physiotherapy treatments. Nowadays, I am a first contact health professional and I refer patients to physicians when they require other health care. Our network is made up of doctors, audiologists, dentists, optometrists, and sports coaches.

5. If someone from here (or outside Portugal) wanted to practice PT in Portugal, is it difficult to get a license?

It is more bureaucratic than it is difficult. The first question is if you completed your course of study in the European Union (EU) or in another country. If you studied outside the EU, the first step is to request an equivalence of your physiotherapy course from a Portuguese university. After that, you must submit the equivalence to an organization called Administração Central do Sistema de Saúde (ACSS), so they can review your paperwork and give you a professional certification that allows you to practice physiotherapy in Portugal.

6. What does the compensation look like for PTs in Portugal?

The compensation in Portugal depends on whether you work in public or private practice. A physiotherapist that works in our national health system earns about 1000 euros per month. Those who work in private practice don't have a pre-set salary.

7. What are the biggest challenges of your position?

Like the rest of the world, we are facing and embracing challenging times. We have a fantastic and open community full of people who are constantly looking to challenge themselves, launch new subjects for debate, diverge between scientific evidence and evidence-based practice, be exposed to more manual therapy and physical exercise, and learn more about the bio-psycho-social model.

In Portugal, we are receptive to new ideas and we are putting them into practice and discussing the results. We are open-minded and we are constantly striving to be better and more recognized as professionals.

8. Have you practiced in the US, and if so, how does it differ from Portugal?

I would love to respond to that question, but unfortunately, I have not practiced outside of my country. I only work in Portugal. Perhaps in the future, I will have this opportunity.

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