STEP 1: SHUT UP AND LISTEN
STEP 2: EMBRACE YOUR MISTAKES
Sometimes when we become good at a skill, we forget the countless hours of dedication it may have taken to acquire it. It’s probably safe to say, no one sets out to have a knack for being wrong. Mistakes are ultimately inevitable and are critical in this process we call professional development. The pearl lies not in being wrong, but in our ability to turn these errors in judgement into lessons that shape our careers.
No shoulder left behind
You look at your schedule today and see a 30-year-old female patient with left shoulder pain. She has been seeing one of the more experienced PTs at your clinic regularly for about 6 weeks with success. She denies having any pain over the past 3 weeks and is feeling much better. She really feels like this physical therapy thing is working and is very motivated to get back into her normal workout routine again. You’re excited for her as well and decide to get “creative” with her treatment by adding some shoulder exercises you saw on Instagram from a PT that is heavily followed. She shows up at her next appointment with her primary PT and you overhear her explaining that she now has pain in both shoulders that has interrupted her sleep.
Chess not checkers
What’s your next move? This situation can play out in several different ways. You could:
1) Run like the wind and treat it like a bad date you want to forget, hoping the primary PT never brings it up again. You fear this route will lead to your coworker never trusting you with a patient of theirs again.
2) Point the finger by explaining how the patient may have done something outside of her PT session that contributed to her symptoms because you “stuck with the script”.
3) Accept responsibility by meeting with the primary PT privately and letting them know your thought process for progressing the patient in the manner you did. If this experienced PT is indeed a Rockstar Clinician , they will turn this into a coachable moment that will forever stick with you.
Don’t get caught up in defensive driving
We sometimes fall victim to getting bogged down in the art of rebuttal so much that we begin to convince ourselves user error is impossible or only applies to those that are careless. In doing so, we miss the opportunity to learn from our utmost resource, the patient. Here’s where Step 1: Shut up and Listen is intended to set the groundwork. If our patient follows up and is feeling worse, be empathetic and acknowledge their vulnerability in coming back to you. Then make a genuine effort to dig deeper to determine a viable plan for moving forward for the both of you. There are opportunities for this every day of your career, but if you’re the type to wear sunglasses at night you’ll surely miss them.
Your Favorite PT Fellow
Meet Chris, the creator and sole author of the Your Favorite PT blog