10 Things I Learned In My First Year As A Physical Therapist

By Dr. Meghan Wieser, PT, DPT

Now this may not be an exhaustive list but there are a great deal of things I’ve learned over this past year through personal reflection, passion, and the outstanding drive to pursue my own excellence that will far surpass anything I learn in a continuing education course. Here’s the part where I tell you about a few of these things:

     1. You have about 3 minutes to make a first impression on someone – make it a welcoming and charming one.

     2. What you say/do is often much less important to a patient than howyou say/do things.

     3. You can memorize all the statistics and randomized controlled trials you want but if you can’t talk to a patient like they’re a human being, you will go nowhere in your career – patients don’t care about the statistics on the study you read last night. They want a care provider they can trust and enjoy being around, and someone who will go above and beyond for them.

     4. Patients don’t care if you have the alphabet soup after your name – they want you to help them and they are looking for someone who genuinely cares.

     5. The power of human touch, whether a patient needs aggressive manual therapy or not, can go a long way…I’m not saying massage everyone that comes in your door [far from that] but there are certain patients who benefit from gentle soft tissue work. Make it up if you need to -- there’s actually research out there that shows you can really tap into the nervous system and decrease pain/stress just by putting your hands on someone—doesn’t always have to be a fancy technique you learned in a weekend course.

     6. Don't ever underestimate how much patient education you’ll have to provide.

     7. You don’t always have to dumb things down for a patient – I know some of us are taught to use layperson terminology – which I agree with to a certain extent—but if you take the time to explain the anatomy briefly to the right patientthey might truly appreciate it [notice I said the right patient – that's a different story for a different day]

          a. Small caveat to this one - learn to provide education in a manner that does not promote a fear-mongering behavior/beliefs in that patient

          b. E.g. intervertebral discs to that of a jelly donut – those things are fragile as hell!! The human body is STRONG, don’t instill the idea that jelly is going to squirt out of your patient’s spine if they bend down slightly to tie their shoes.

     8. In the outpatient setting, the evaluation process is ongoing and should include every visit.

     9. Where you think it is it ain’t – look at other joints/body parts aside from the site of pain because more often than not, the painful area isn’t the actual cause of the mechanical issue.

     10. If you love what you do, your patients will be able to tell – and they’ll love you for it.

I hope some of this was helpful - or at least thought provoking to some of you. I could probably name 100 more things but these have been the most prominent in my mind.

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