We might have different rooms, but we are all under the same roof
The debate of who to trust in our profession is like watching two parents disagree on how their kids should be raised. The good news is that both sides will almost always act in their child’s best interest. In the PT world, we’ve found ourselves in a place where we are stuck eating soup with a fork knowing there is so much yumminess still left in the bowl. At some point, we hope to scoop up this content with a spoon, leaving no good information behind.
I’ve been blessed enough to have had in depth exposure to great minds on both sides of the fence when it comes to comparing physical therapists in the academic and clinical settings. I can honestly say I admire the landscaping on both sides.
The Renowned Professor
The first group of intellects is what we are exposed to in school. This group includes those with PhDs, years of participation in groundbreaking research and even published books. Early in our careers, we spend countless hours consuming their content to grasp a proper introduction into the world of PT before truly getting our feet wet. This group may have had years of clinical experience as well, but usually will have been removed from consistent clinical practice to pursue even more accolades. They are the backbone of our profession; we’ll never make it through this stage of adolescence without them.
The Rockstar Clinician
The second group consists of clinicians who are out in the world carrying the profession in a different sense as they deal with the day-to-day load of patient care. Those at the forefront of this group may or may not have kept up with all of the latest research or even the most up to date textbooks, however, they are idolized by their colleagues and usually sought after for advice on complex patients even by some of the most experienced clinicians. Their approach to PT is probably different than what is taught in DPT programs, but they are getting their patients better consistently.
The Alligators of the Swamp
This last group is a very special one. They have shown the ability to not only run on the land of academia, but also swim in the marshes of patient care with the Rockstar. They value what both groups bring to the table and have found a way to master this art in a manner that an advanced practitioner can appreciate. These are individuals who have pioneered and disseminated their philosophies to the PT community as a whole. If you’re ever wondering what’s being left behind from the fork in the bowl of soup, here is where you will find it.
If you’re striving to be an alligator, you have to first respect how the Renowned Professor and Rockstar clinician are giving you landscape to explore on both sides of the fence. It’s impossible for either group to be right 100% of the time, but the level of intelligence in each provides plenty of fertilizer for you to excel. Stay grounded in why you chose this journey of becoming a master clinician and embrace the pearls you receive from each group knowing you’re leveling up with each patient contact.
Accepting the walk of shame... admitting you were wrong
Truth be told. We are all wrong at some point. Even those with a photographic memory or hands that have been “touched by an angel,” as a patient may say, occasionally fall short. The impact of these errors come with the actions taken afterwards, not the error itself. As a new therapist, the hardest pill to swallow may be finding a way to tactfully admit fault.
It happens on a daily basis. You have a patient you may have progressed too quickly, and they’ve been waiting all weekend to let you know that on Tuesday, they are still sore from their therapy session the previous Wednesday. Better yet, you’re working on balance exercises with a patient in the clinic and they fall after you turn your head for a second, ending up with a compression fracture in their thoracic spine.
Accountability is more than just a 14-letter word
How do we handle these situations? These errors can change the course of your career if not handled properly. The reason organizations implement drills is to diminish and hopefully eliminate these close calls or occurrences. After the fact, we have to hold ourselves accountable. This could be admitting to a patient that you may have advanced their program too quickly, and this response is good information for moving forward on how their body responds to exercise. Or with the patient who suffered a fall, you could let them know you may have underestimated the magnitude of their balance deficits and you should have been more attentive in the moment.
What are we afraid of?
Will be there consequences? Absolutely, but when you hold yourself accountable, you’ll never have to keep justifying why the finger is pointed in the direction away from you. The blame game becomes lame (caught that?). It’s a tough topic, but if we start our journey with a pledge of being accountable for our actions in all situations, it will create a level of clinical maturity that just can’t be taught.
How do we change it?
We take the time to become more prepared and avoid risky shortcuts. You never want to be that guy or girl that is driving a car 75 mph on a curvy road with bad brakes because you were being too lazy to get them fixed. Confront bad habits now and use those occurrences to make your story even better to read. Our peers and patients respect us more when we are consistently honest and genuine. Staying true to these principles, regardless of how much “book smarts” we possess, will keep them fans of us for life.
Nerves, uncertainty and self-doubt can all be barriers to getting a start and just experiencing your first. Here’s mine and I’ve decided to share it with you. I must say, I have always pictured myself in a position where I could help others become a better version of themselves. I too, have sought the same guidance throughout my life whether it be with learning how to perfect a macaroni & cheese recipe, shoot a jump shot in basketball or become a better PT. It’s with great pleasure, I welcome you to join me on my excursion to hopefully leave a lasting impact on a profession I love so dearly.
I realized I found myself going above and beyond to help PT residents, students and coworkers on their journey of becoming a better PT through formal and informal in-services, one-on-one mentoring and organizing hands on lab sessions. Never being bothered to assist with a complicated patient or impatient when they weren’t able to grasp a concept as quick as they may have in previous instances, it finally registered that I may have been meant to do this.
Some people are just meant to do it
The smartest person in the room does not always equate to the best teacher in the room. They may not even care to do it which is perfectly fine. Some of us enjoy working and are not interested in being the best therapist in the room. As long as your patients are getting better, you’re happy. This too, is perfectly fine. If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably not in that category. Unfortunately, you may be a rare breed. You may not have the resources to get better, but you know you’re destined to be a great therapist. Thankfully, the good news, is you’re not alone.
Where do we go from here?
We put in the work. I’ve always found myself clinging to the quote, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” I think it’s easy to underestimate what goes into the process of becoming great at something. You don’t have to be competitive. Subtract that, yes you do. To a certain extent, you have to compete with yourself and ask, “Could I have given more? Worked harder? Been more prepared? Cared more?’’ If yes, that’s your start. Let’s make it happen and get on track to be more consistent with what we know we’re capable of doing.