Most physical therapists I have met over the years have similar reasons for entering the field and practice: The willingness to help others. But somewhere along the line, that passion can get lost. We get caught up in other entities of the job and lose sight of what we entered the practice for. There are productivity standards and expectations. Committees and side projects that do not have much to do with patient care. Documentation is no longer a review of what worked and what didn’t—it is a satisfaction of the requirements of the insurance company (so we can get paid.) So how can we keep the passion for PT in this new “business" environment?
Play. This seems to be a dangerous or confusing word for the workplace, but in reality, play is important. I don’t go to work just to earn a paycheck and feed my family. I go to enjoy myself while helping others. When I play, I am creative. I can think beyond the constraints of current thought, and develop new theories or constructs for the patient that may not have responded well to traditional treatment. So have fun. Laugh with the patient—that is the foundation of most healing.
Connect. Connecting with your patient is vital. There may be days when autopilot kicks in and you just start to coast. But be aware that it’s a slippery slope that can develop into a pattern. Most of the greatest therapists I have worked do not have a history of coasting. It’s not an option for them. No matter how grueling, and no matter how long they’ve been at it in this work, they always seem to make that personal connection—the connection that makes the patient appreciate the treatment.
Give. Give of yourself to help others. That is usually how most students start out, but the focus can quickly change to “How am I going to pay for my schooling?” or “How am I going to keep up?” If you are genuine with your patients and aren’t necessarily worried about your numbers or productivity, everything seems to fall in place. The patient will likely be more compliant, and more willing to follow your lead. Once you have that buy-in, productivity becomes easy.
Try Something New. One of NAIOMT’s founders, Cliff Fowler, showed me a technique that I worked with for about two years. It was a game changer for me, and when I got to go back to work with him, I was so excited to share my gratitude. When I got there, I was confused. He was no longer using the technique that basically transformed my treatment of that body part. I asked him about it and his answer has stuck with me over the years, “You should always be changing and evolving. I usually change it up every year.” He hadn’t been using that technique for over a year. Why? He didn’t have to—he came up with something that worked better.
Play. Connect. Give. Try something new.
Rajesh Khemraj, PT, OCS, COMT, FAAOMPT
Clinical Faculty Instructor at The North American Institute of Orthopaedic Manual Therapy
About the Author
Rajesh is a Physical Therapist, who is passionate about health and wellness. He is interested in all aspects of general well being including fitness, nutrition and mindfulness. He continues to learn and grow from the profession he loves.
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