This week, we'd like you to meet David Bond, a third-year student physical therapist at the University of Washington. But he's not your average PT student. A former fire fighter and paramedic, he's currently interning in outpatient physical therapy at Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon. As we've mentioned many times before, we feel it's important to hear (and learn!) from not only the most seasoned PTs, but those who are the next wave to be in the field. David is showing tremendous promise and passion and we're pleased to share a bit of his perspective with you.
What made you decide to become a PT?
A number of factors led to my decision to become a PT. They included the ability to help people improve health and participation in a definitive way, the challenge of solving clinical mysteries, the opportunity to become steeped in a sophisticated way of approaching human movement, and professional opportunities to keep me engaged with life for many years to come. Before deciding to become a PT, I had a brief rehab for nagging injuries. I was impressed with my PT’s ability to treat me and get me back to the activities I enjoy. This is a second career for me, and I made a conscious effort to become involved in the profession of physical therapy. I left a job as a firefighter/paramedic with my hometown fire department. It was a hugely rewarding career and I miss the camaraderie. Even though it’s bittersweet to have moved on, I love what I’m doing now and know that I made the right decision.
Is there an area of PT you’re particularly drawn to?
I’m particularly drawn to orthopedic manual physical therapy as well as to pain neuroscience. I like the tension between the biomechanical and psychosocial features of a patient’s presentation.
I also have an interest in clinical research and hope to continue to be involved with research after graduation. I plan to practice in rural Washington. I look forward to finding ways to bring research out of urban academic centers and into my community.
What kind of PT do you hope to become in the next few decades?
A good one! A PT who can offer something to almost anyone but who also knows where to send patients when their problems would be better addressed by someone else.
How can PTs help spread the knowledge that getting PT first can save time and money for all involved, and still be effective in most cases?
I think that spreading the knowledge of “PT first” starts with owning our identity as the profession that optimizes human movement. When PTs own this identity, marketing can happen on many levels, beginning with the interactions we all have with patients, clients, and fellow clinicians.
Tell us about a PT-related challenge you’ve faced so far and how you worked through it.
I’m so new to PT that every clinical encounter is a huge challenge. The most challenging cases so far, though, have been ones where a patient arrives with a referral for a specific musculoskeletal diagnosis but there is a chronic pain / fear-avoidance component identified upon evaluation. It’s been rewarding to share my findings and plans of care with referring physicians and to have them collaborate to address the big picture for these patients.
What are your thoughts about Spinal Manipulation and Endorsement in Washington?
I think these skills are examples of valid tools for PTs to have in the clinical toolbox. These procedures should not be monopolized by one profession, but remain interventions that could be offered within the scopes of a number of professions for the benefit of patients.
On a related note, no skill should define physical therapy in Washington State. It’s not about what physical therapists do; it’s what we know that makes the profession.
Do you think it's important for PTs to have mentors? Do you have one?
I think that mentorship is very valuable and important for PTs. I don’t have a formal mentor yet, but there are many PTs I look up to and receive guidance from. One of my goals as a new grad is to establish a mentor/mentee relationship for clinical and professional development. In the future, I may seek out an additional mentor for business direction.
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?
Continuing education makes a big difference for PTs. New data and ways of approaching physical therapy practice are always coming to light. CE has the immediate effect of tapping into important developments. It also keeps PTs out of the rut of complacency. This is great for patients in the clinic.
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?
For all the talk about evidence-based practice in physical therapy, it seems like there is still disconnect between theory and practice. In the coming years, I’d like to see more fluidity in how information and ideas are shared between clinicians and researchers. Research design and data collection could address part of the problem. Individual PTs can tackle another aspect through continuing education and by staying on top of the published literature. Post-graduate development helps; for example, fellowship training. Another idea would be to promote more full-time clinicians spending a small portion of their time doing research and transferring ideas between academia and the clinic.
Do you have a motto or mantra when it comes to your approach to care?
Not yet. I do like using little sayings for patient education, much to my current clinical instructor’s chagrin. Maybe a good motto/mantra will come to me as I gain some experience!
What makes you a PT worth seeing?
I want the best outcomes for my patients and I give them my full attention. I also make a point to connect with my patients regardless of their background. The desire to help, interest, rapport, and the basics go a long way! In addition, I want my patients to be active participants in their therapy and able to do as much as possible to help themselves. I think this mindset makes me a student PT worth seeing because folks thrive when they have as much self-direction and empowerment as possible.