Whether you want to be a great Physical Therapist (PT) or you’re searching for one to help you, it’s great to know the top characteristics of a great PT, you’re come to the right place! Son Trinh is a Doctor of Physical Therapy who practices in Lomita, CA. He wrote the content for this post a few years back but it has stood the test of time.
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Physical Therapists (PTs) restore, maintain and promote the best possible physical health for their patients. Sounds simple, but no. Its more than just that. There are many attributes for a successful PT and if you’re in the profession or planning to be a part of it, you might want to read on.
Astute. Sherlock Holmes often chided his bumbling sidekick Watson with the admonition “You see but you do not observe.” Anyone can see a hip, but an astute observer notices the vaulting. Anyone can see a baseball pitch, but an astute observer notices the trunk rotation (or lack thereof). Honing your observational skills helps you to identify problems. The next step is to solve them.
Knowledgeable. If you want to find solutions to what ails your patients, you need to update your knowledge base. Whether it’s a scholarly journal, a helpful colleague, or a tattered text—knowledge sources are pervasive and plentiful. The clinical science behind physical therapy grows ever more complicated. Don’t be left behind. Become a lifelong learner. Today.
Humble. Being realistic also means being humble. There’s three ways to do this. Learn from yourself, learn from your colleagues, and learn from your patients. The latter is probably the most important. If experience is education then your patients are the educators, par excellence
Patient. Sure you have “other things to do” but so do the people you treat. Exposure to the suffering and pain-stricken patient shouldn’t make us impatient with seemingly “commonplace” problems. Often, patients have endured a chronic illness, waited hours or even months to see us, and appreciate our patience as much as we appreciate theirs.
Positive. The same reality can be seen through different lenses.Everything doesn’t have to be rose tinted. But a successful PT knows how to accentuate the positive, redirect negative thoughts, and focus on what’s working, improving, good or (fill in the blank). You believe what you tell yourself. And if you believe it, your patient is more likely to as well.
Intelligible. You might know what’s going on and what you’re going to do about it. The average patient won’t. The challenge is to overcome the disconnect between you and your patient. This doesn’t happen by telepathy. The PT needs to choose words that are appropriate, clear, and unintimidating. Talking to patients shouldn’t sound like a lecture or a dissertation.
Well Rounded. You need to be a jack of all trades and a master of (at least) one (physical therapy). Experience in different fields, a large general knowledge base, an interest in cultural activities, art, music, science and social studies—all the above enable PTs to relate to their patients and understand the demands of their daily activities. Well rounded PTs can also better design programs that connect therapy to functional and meaningful goals. Bonus: your patient will probably enjoy your company too.
Realistic. The fact remains, no matter how many lifetimes you live, there’s still more learning to do. As Dr. Seuss said “Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest. Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t.” But that’s okay. As long as you’re realistic about what you can and can’t do, you’ll know when to seek help, refer your patient or both. Dr. Seuss would be proud.
Flexible. Patients don’t always show up on time, the computer can crash, goniometers sometimes break and the only toilet in the building might be clogged. Are you flexible enough? Can you adapt, improvise and innovate? If so, you and everyone around you will be less stressed and more impressed.
Caring. If you fixed cars for a living, caring about the car probably wouldn’t be so important. The car repair probably won’t be any more successful if you say “hi” and give it a hug. But if you care about people, they will listen to your advice, return for follow-ups, say good things about you, be less likely to sue you (or punch you in the face) and, most important of all, they will feel better and get better. Mission accomplished.
About the Author: An advocate of prevention, Son has played a role in the personal transformation of thousands of people, including Michelle Obama, The Philadelphia Eagles, Sheryl Crow, Ashton Kutcher, and many more.
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