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Meaningful Mentors: Meet NAIOMT's Jessica Smith-Blockley

Posted by NAIOMT on Sep 19, 2020 7:53:06 AM

Jessica Smith-Blockley received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Puget Sound in 2007. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 2003 with a BA in Psychology, where she also competed in Nordic skiing. She received her OCS in 2009, became a COMT in 2012, and graduated from NAIOMT’s Fellowship program in 2015 to earn her FAAOMPT. She has been a Clinical Fellowship Instructor since 2015, and a Faculty Instructor since 2019. Jessica owns the private practice Ascend Physical Therapy in Bend, Oregon.

 

What drew you to PT as a career? 

I knew I wanted to work in healthcare in some capacity. I started out planning to go to medical school, but when I really started thinking about it I realized I didn't actually want to be a doctor at all. I found PT to be more appealing because it allowed the opportunity to work with patients more closely and over a longer period of time, to develop relationships with patients and work together with them, and because it was more hands-on.

 

Where did you go to school and why?

I went to University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. I ultimately went there because they offered me a scholarship that I couldn't afford to turn down. But I initially chose to apply there because I really liked the faculty and the program.

 

What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

My first job was with Therapeutic Associates in Boise, ID. I learned a lot about working with runners, cyclists, and triathletes as that was a large part of the patient demographic in that clinic.

 

Why did you leave your first PT job?

I really wanted to pursue my NAIOMT fellowship, and at the time I felt that would be more logistically and financially feasible to do in the Pacific Northwest.

 

How did you hear about NAIOMT?

In a somewhat random and fortunate series of events, I happened to land a job as a PT aide at Olympic Sports and Spine in Puyallup, WA when I was going through PT school. At the time, Michael Tollan, Bill O'Grady, Pam Kikillus, and Joe Krugh worked in that clinic. Having the opportunity to watch NAIOMT fellows, faculty, and examiners work with patients was amazing and so inspiring. I knew immediately that was the route I wanted to pursue.

 

Where did you take your first NAIOMT courses and what was your first impression?

In Portland, OR. I remember thinking to myself, I thought I had learned a lot in PT school, but man I have sooo much more to learn!

 

Who was your first NAIOMT instructor?

Ann Porter Hoke.

 

Watching the folks at OSSR treat patients with so much efficiency and skill was absolutely my inspiration. Seeing the immediate change in patients after just one treatment was amazing to me.

 

What got you hooked on NAIOMT?

Watching the folks at OSSR treat patients with so much efficiency and skill was absolutely my inspiration. Seeing the immediate change in patients after just one treatment was amazing to me.

 

How did you hear about the fellowship program?

There were several PTs going through their fellowship program at OSSR during my time there.

 

Was fitting the fellowship into your lifestyle challenging? 

Maybe it's been long enough now that I've forgotten how challenging it was, or maybe I just blocked it from my memory, but I don't recall it being a massive struggle. I moved to Portland specifically to make it easier to do my fellowship training, and I was extremely fortunate to get a job at the same clinic as my primary mentor.

 

Who was/is your mentor? Tell us about several if you have them!

David Deppeler and Bill Temes

I remember when David first came to work with me as a new grad at TAI, I was terrified of him. I found him so intimidating at the time, which is hilarious to me now because we've become such good friends over the years. He is one of the wisest and calmest yet irreverent people I know. He always manages to make me question what I'm doing, in a good way. I strive to emulate his ability to ask a question and let there be silence if there's not an immediate response. If there is an embodiment of the life-long learner, it is him.

I often refer to Bill as my "PT dad." He reminds me a lot of my own father (who I adore), and his daughter is also a PT and a good friend of mine. Like any good father, Bill has the ability to know when and how hard to push. He has always been incredibly supportive, but also constantly challenges me to grow and improve. His passion for the profession, for teaching, and for mentoring is an inspiration.

I would not be where I am today without these two and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work so closely with them over the years.

I also feel strongly that good mentorship is what helps to develop excellent clinicians, and in this profession we need more excellence.

 

Why did you decide to become a mentor?

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with amazing mentors throughout my career, and I like the idea of being able to give back. I also feel strongly that good mentorship is what helps to develop excellent clinicians, and in this profession we need more excellence.

 

What’s unique about you as a teacher?

I take teaching very seriously, but I'm not super serious when I teach. I like to keep the mood light and open. I don't ever want a student to feel intimidated or reluctant to ask a question. I'm also type A and a tad OCD, so my classes tend to be very organized and I work really hard to stay on schedule.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I bake a lot. If I weren't a PT, I'd be a pastry chef. To counteract the effects of that I run, bike, hike, and ski as much as I can depending on the season.

 

How do you combine these interests with your PT profession?

The baking not so much, but most of my patients are very active and outdoorsy, so it's a good way to connect on common ground.

 

What's your most strongly held belief about how PT should be provided?

1:1 PT:patient. Period.

 

What do you believe is the biggest problem facing PT today? 

Money. Reimbursement rates make it hard for larger practices to allow therapists sufficient time with their patients to practice at their optimal level. Productivity expectations are too high and PTs are getting burned out, but young PTs have so much student debt that they have no choice but to put their heads down and power through.

 

Why do you believe in the NAIOMT system?

It is logical, precise, specific, and efficient. Most importantly it is effective. It provides a framework for assessment and differential diagnosis which allows for the appropriate selection of tools/techniques to apply.

 

What's your mantra when it comes to treating?

I want every patient to feel heard. I want them to walk out the door feeling better than when they walked in. Every patient deserves to have me at my best.

 

Give an example of a time when you know you made a difference with a patient.

Just last week I had a patient come in with a very long and complex history. During the hour-long evaluation we just talked (rather, she talked and I listened). I didn't even have time to do any treatment, which pretty much never happens. But she came back the next visit and told me how much it meant to her that I had taken the time to listen to her whole story. I think that made a bigger difference to her than any treatment would have in that moment.

 

Give an example of a time when you know you made a difference with a student.

Taking extra time after class to review a biomechanics/assessment concept until it was really well understood.

As a profession we need to do a better job of educating the public as to what it is we do. Too many people still think the only time you go to a PT is after you have surgery or some other major trauma.

 

What changes would you like to see the PT profession make? What's lacking?

As a profession we need to do a better job of educating the public as to what it is we do. Too many people still think the only time you go to a PT is after you have surgery or some other major trauma.

 

In work and in life in general, what really matters to you?

Everything in life is a balance. Be true to yourself. In order to be able to take care of others, you have to take care of yourself.

 

Favorite vacation spot? Why?

Anywhere new! I love traveling to places that put me outside my comfort zone. It helps put things in perspective.

 

 

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