Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Are you Pre-Med and trying to figure out what career in healthcare suits you? Are you trying to figure out whether your future holds medical school, PA school, nursing school, physical therapy school, research or another field of healthcare? If so, our SheMD Women In Healthcare Series is FOR YOU!
Becoming a Physical Therapist was not the first career choice I entertained as a youngster. Unlike most, my journey to Physical Therapy did not stem from extensive injuries playing high school and collegiate sports. In fact, my introduction to Physical Therapy came about in high school when I was accruing volunteer hours for college. I was randomly assigned to the rehab floor of a local hospital, to assist with patient transport and act as a Physical Therapy Aide. After I completed my volunteer work, I pursued a Bachelors in International Business/Marketing and started working a desk job in advertising post studies. Shortly after starting my desk job, I found myself unsatisfied and stir crazy, being confined to an office chair wasn’t for me. At this particular time, a friend of mine asked me a pivotal question: What experience, in the past 10 years, was the most meaningful and rewarding to you? My mind circled back to the time I volunteered at the hospital on the rehab floor. I was fascinated by the body’s amazing and inherent capacity to heal when exposed to proper treatment plans and interventions. I was also intrigued by the powerful role the mind and the patient’s support system plays in the recovery process. Currently, I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy for the oldest and most notable Physician Owned Outpatient Physical Therapy Clinic in Central Florida. Every day I am driven to promote patients ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability.
Here are the top 5 reasons why I chose physical therapy:
1. Relationships. I have the opportunity to develop short and long-term relationships with patients of all ages, recovering from various ailments. It is important for me to see my patients for more than just one visit. Learning about their recovery goals and what motivates them is critical to the rehabilitation process. This allows me to design their plan of care around their goals and the activities they enjoy. An integral part of the relationship with my patients is helping motivate them as their body goes through the highs and the lows of the recovery process. Relationships are an important part of building trust with the patient. When we have successfully built the relationship with our patients, it is not uncommon to then treat one’s mother for chronic low back pain, their father following a knee replacement, and the older brother status post ankle fusion secondary to instability.
2. Education: Educating my patients about their body, how it works and how they can recover to improve their quality of life is the icing on the cake. My goal is not to just assign an exercise. My goal is to explain why this would benefit the patient based on the assessment from the evaluation. An injury/ailment can frequently make us feel defeated and helpless. Sometimes it even keeps us from doing what we love. I believe that if we educate our patients about their body and why it works the way it does (hold the medical jargon!), they will feel more empowered and in control of their body. The injury should not define you and it should not mark the end of your active lifestyle. Educating patients is just as rewarding as teaching a student Physical Therapist. Recently, I had the opportunity to host a student for her 3rd rotation from the UCF Doctor of Physical Therapy program. It was rewarding to see my student experience the novelties of practicing therapy and develop her own style of treating. I also enjoyed becoming the student as she shared information on evolving trends of Evidence Based Practice.
3. Various Age Groups and Ailments. I have chosen to work in Outpatient Orthopaedics for the diverse caseload it has to offer. One minute I am teaching a nine year old, status post ankle fracture suffering with CRPS signs/symptoms, how to walk again after having been non-weight bearing for almost a year. The next hour, I am helping a seventy-year-old grandma, two weeks following a Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement. Regaining range of motion, joint/soft tissue mobility and strength, were her recovery goals. These goals were met by trusting the rehabilitation plan, consistency and motivation to hold her newborn grandson for the first time.
4. Multiple Settings. I have the opportunity to practice in multiple settings over time or even at once. As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, one can choose to work at a Skilled Nursing Home, Inpatient Rehab, in a private practice, open your own practice, Pediatrics, Acute Care, Home Health, and the list goes on. After graduating with my Doctorate in Physical Therapy, I was conflicted between two work settings: Acute Care versus Outpatient Orthopaedics. I love the hustle and bustle of managing all of the lines in the ICU and helping people who are in a vulnerable state. However, I wanted to treat a higher level of functioning patient because their goals are more complex. For example, correcting one’s throwing mechanics to add velocity to their pitch for return to play with their collegiate baseball team. Once again, the development of that long-term relationship is prioritized. I also choose to work for a Physician Owned Physical Therapy Practice (POPTS) because I wanted to develop close relationships with the surgeons that completed the surgeries of the patients I treated. If I need clarification on the details in one’s operative report, I walk down the hallway and speak to the surgeon in person about his or her surgery. These discussions supplement my treatment plan and help me understand a patient’s prognosis.
Occasionally over the weekends, I perform home health visits for patients that have recently gone under the knife for joint replacements e.g. hip and knee. On my home health visits, I teach patients how to walk with and ultimately without an assistive device, get up from low surfaces, dress themselves, get in and out of a car, and manage stairs and curbs. These are milestone goals that make it less challenging to transition from home health to outpatient Orthopaedics (when we meet again!).
5. No ceilings and endless learning opportunities. First and foremost, there is no ceiling on earnings because Physical Therapists have the ability to specialize in a variety of domains, which provide lifetime learning and higher earning potential. Some of the certifications available for Physical Therapists are: Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist (OCS), Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS), Sports Certified Specialist (SCS), Neurologic Certified Specialist (NCS), Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), and Pelvic Health Certifications.
Physical Therapy is frequently ranked in the top 25 for job flexibility, pay, and overall job satisfaction. As Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Well, Confucius, then I made the right choice.