Are you REALLY ready for a Mentor?

By Josh Fede, PT, DPT

Last Wednesday night I was finishing up some notes and reflecting on a couple patients. I was reflecting on my clinical thought process and my decision making on why and how I came to this decision to direct their plan of care the way that I did. A higher order of thinking such as Metacognition was part of my curriculum during PT school; this order of thinking can be described as “thinking about thinking”. As a first year student the subject was boring, mundane, and the required reading was verbose, meanwhile, at the same time I’m drawing and re-drawing the brachial plexus for an upcoming practical. So I prioritized and put the metacognition in my mental rolodex.

During my time in PT school I was manual therapy trained (currently working toward certification) and developed a passion for the spine and orthopaedics, this passion was then augmented while I was applying it to athletes and seeing the results. This was when I realized I wanted to specialize in sports and orthopaedics. In my last semester of PT school, I would tell my wife how great it would be to have a mentor out of school in sports and orthopaedics. I figured that having a mentor that also specialized in that area of what I wanted to do would teach me to see flaws and weak points in my practice. Whatever the reason was, the opportunity never arose for me. My first and current position out of PT school is Lead Physical Therapist in a PT owned sports and orthopaedics clinic in the Ft. Lauderdale area. I’m the only full-time PT, so I didn’t really have anyone to knock any ideas off of or collaborate with. During this time I feel I developed a keen sense of awareness of myself, and broadened my experience beyond what I would have if I had a mentor. Hold on, what? “Are you saying that you wouldn’t have benefited from a mentor?!” Absolutely not! What I’m saying is that having a mentor out of school was not the right time for me. For me, I needed to get out of the “student bubble”. I needed to play with a few ideas I had, I needed to experience things for myself, I needed to take some bumps on my own, I needed to be more self aware without prompting. I mean, isn’t that what we teach and reinforce to our patients? To become self aware, self empowered, and perform activities without cueing?

Going back to February 10th, I sent out a tweet saying:

Not having a mentor right out of school probably benefitted me more than if I did.

It sparked a discussion, and I hope it wasn’t taken the wrong way through 140-character translation. What that tweet was really saying was that, it wasn’t my time for a mentor. I feel Twitter gives you access to unlimited amount of virtual mentors; I look up to quite of few Twitter PTs regardless of practice area because you can apply different practice areas and scopes to what you specialize in. That’s what’s great about Physical Therapy, it’s one HUGE grey-area.

With the experience I have gained, I feel now that I am in a position to benefit greatly from a mentor. “Well, what’s the difference now, Josh?”. Now, I have something to compare. I can compare my experience and knowledge with my mentor, we can have better in-depth discussions, and most of all, things just make more sense because you have a lot of experience already! Out of school, you are a blank piece of paper, you’re pressing, you want to “perfect”, I mean you’re a Doctor of Physical Therapy! So for me, I feel a mentor out of school would’ve molded my mental processing and clinical thinking around my mentor without anything to compare it to, while much beneficial, it would’ve hindered my personal growth and practice.

Are YOU ready for a mentor?

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