As I approach my second year of practicing physical therapy, I look back on everything that I have learned. In August of 2016, I transitioned from rehabilitation technician to physical therapist and it felt amazing! I am a legit Movement Specialist and it blows my mind how much I know about the human body. I can honestly say that it is everything that I expected, both good and bad. The most annoying thing is justifying my role a the PHYSICAL THERAPIST and not the tech or PTA. Deep down, I know that it is not because I look young or inexperienced. It irritates me because it comes from my patients’ doctor, nurse, family members, etc. It drives me insane that I have to say, “Yes, I am the PT” despite what’s on my badge. But, I just let my work speak for itself.
The stress is totally worth it and I love being in a role where I have a say in my patient’s care. When I first got my license, I wanted to get a ton of experience and $$$$$ to pay off my loans early. So, I had the bright idea of working in 4 different settings, 56 to 64 hours a week. I worked in a skilled nursing facility, acute care (hospital setting), acute rehab, and outpatient pediatrics. Not bad for a new grad BUT, it was a huge mistake. I didn’t have time for myself or family and I got burnt out within the first 7 months. I had to let go of peds and acute care simply because I was not learning as much as I wanted to. These loans can wait and I will pay them off when I can. I’m currently on an income driven repayment plan where I pay 20% of my income. Now, I am working full time in the acute rehab setting with a majority of patients who are neurologically impaired and I love it. In addition, I work PRN in the skilled nursing facility 2 weekends out of the month.
In the acute rehab setting, we have patients ranging from ages 18-100 years; from fall related injuries to car accidents to heart attacks. Very rarely, we get orthopedic cases such as hip, shoulder or knee replacements but when we do, it helps me to brush up on my skills. It’s tough working in one setting because you lose some things that you learned in PT school. So it’s important to expand both the breadth and depth of knowledge. Last year, I went to several courses to help me become a better clinician. The two most important courses were based on the evaluation and treatment for patients with stroke and spinal cord injuries. I was able to bring back information for my coworkers and use it in my plan of care. One day, I plan to get my Neurologic Specialist Certification which is another huge test mimicking the format of the NPTE. I love this field so much but the only downside for me is the lengthy documentation. But if you do not document, it didn’t happen so it’s important for me to “paint a picture” of each treatment session.
Overall, I have been able to re-evaluate my own life and learn from myself. Specifically, cutting out certain people and things that did not fit into my “new lifestyle”. I now know my worth and what I am willing to tolerate as a professional in a rewarding career. Physical therapy is an ever changing field with so much to teach and learn along the way. The most important thing for me is being confident in what I do while taking on a leadership role to become the best version of myself every day.