You know what gets us really excited? When young PTs and students "get it" from the very beginning. When someone exudes passion for our field, wants to learn from its history and take steps to improve it. When they understand the importance of truly listening to each patient, because that's the only way to get to the bottom of their pain. When someone knows full well it can be a long, challenging road to become a phenomenal physical therapist, but goes after it anyway.
Katey Blumenthal, SPT '16, director of the Student Run Pro Bono Clinic at University of Utah's Department of Physical Therapy is one of those, and we're happy to welcome her fresh perspective to our PT Profile Series.
What made you decide to become a PT?
Ten years ago, I began working for global non-profit organizations, and forged a career as an anthropologist in South Asia. Studying anthropology opened my mind to the complexity of problems, such as health care disparities. In practicing anthropology, however, I was frustrated by the limited solutions my skills offered. Physical therapy attracted me because it’s an effective way of examining and treating injuries and preventing disease progression in low-resource, low-infrastructure environments. PT provides valuable solutions at individual and community levels. Moreover, it’s a great way to get to know people! Now, here I am, a 3rd year PT student, interning with the Indian Health Service on the border of the Navajo and Zuni Nations. Already, as an intern, I feel highly productive and as though I’m positively impacting individuals’ lives.
Is there an area of PT you’re particularly drawn to?
I’m most drawn to orthopedic manual therapy, and specifically to pediatric orthopedics. Manual therapy attracts me because of its simplicity: hands and a plinth are sufficient treatment tools. I’m inspired by how elegantly precise manual therapy experts perform their skills. What an art! Pediatrics fascinates me for a completely different reason. I’m encouraged by how receptive families can be to wellness initiatives when their children’s health is in question. On top of that, there are few other clinical settings in which a clinician can legitimately stage epic dinosaur battles and mini ninja warrior courses!
What kind of PT do you hope to become throughout the next few decades?
Ultimately I hope to become a good educator – for my future clients (of all ages), for student physical therapists, and for myself. I suppose that means I hope to be a good communicator.
Do you think it's important for PTs to have mentors?
Learning from multiple mentors has exposed me to multiple perspectives on systematic approaches to clinical reasoning and to a variety of treatment techniques. As a student, having many mentors has been incredibly motivating, has provided me with a great skill set, and has expanded my imagination for future practice.
Do you think continuing education makes a difference for PTs? Do you think it can affect their quality of work in the clinic with patients?
My limited continuing education courses, which include two introductory NAIOMT courses taught by NAIOMT faculty member Steve Allen, have been amazing adjuncts to school, and phenomenal exposure to how I can keep learning after I graduate. Whether these courses focus on new skills, solidifying basic material, or as fodder for discussion among therapists, they seem to be a great way to get fresh perspectives on physical therapy practice. Which keeps the profession alive and exciting! I’ve been like a kid in a candy shop looking into potential continuing education opportunities. At the moment I’m looking forward to a Herman & Wallace course on treating pediatric urinary dysfunction, and do intend to continue with continuing education in orthopedic manual therapy!
What are some of the changes you’d like to see made in PT in the next decade? How do you think those changes can be achieved?
PT and rehabilitation services seem to be neglected in the “global health” scene. I’m excited to see PT schools begin to offer clinical education in global health settings, and I hope to see this keep growing in academic settings. Online forums are also great ways to spread the word about the need for rehab services in remote areas with limited infrastructure. Increased participation in global health may also be an effective pathway to increase interdisciplinary training in physical therapy school, which is another element of healthcare that I look forward to seeing evolve.
Do you think it's important for PTs to be active in field-relevant online conversations?
I’m an advocate for a combination of many forums for field-relevant conversation. Online discussions are great in that they offer time to reflect on dialogue and to deliberate on replies, which can be really fruitful. I also believe in-person dialogue and debate to be essential; hence my enthusiasm for educational settings.
Do you have a motto or mantra when it comes to your approach to care? If so, what is it?
Be creative enough to make the clinic a positive and engaging environment. As Groucho Marx said, “if you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”