Professional Development and Social Media

Ah yes….the good old social media discussion.  I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the vast majority, if not all, of you reading this are doing so thanks to social media. As soon as  I hit “Publish”, I’m copying and pasting the link to my twitter and facebook feeds, as well as the Fit Nerd Physios accounts AND to the various groups on facebook that I’m a member of.

Social media is great.  Fun fact: Aimee and I actually “met” on twitter and talked about starting this site before ever meeting in person! (Thankfully we both live in the same town in North Carolina, so we do eat Whole Foods and exchange books together – like true nerds – on a regular basis, but this entire project could be done at a distance!).  And if it weren’t for social media, we certainly wouldn’t have the following that we do. I love to write, and I’d probably still put my thoughts out there even if just my mom and fiance read this, but it’s nice to get information out to fellow students, practicioners, and most importantly: people who have very little experience with physical therapy!

But…there’s a downside.  Sure you can “meet” a lot of people on twitter.  You can learn a ton from being a member of certain facebook groups.  But….at what point does your return on time investment start to plummet?  How much are you REALLY learning this way?  Most importantly, I think, is the question: IS THIS REALLY HELPING YOU GET YOUR PATIENTS BACK TO THE LIVES THEY WANT TO LIVE? (remember my diatribe last week? It’s not about your professional development, per se, it’s about your patients!)

We’ve all heard it or seen it (probs on twitter, ironically): “the people who spent the most time on social media are likely not actually doing any real work”.  They are probably not the people you want to be mentored by.  If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.  I know of PTs who post multiple times a day on multiple groups and forums and mediums, and I can’t help but think….”don’t you have patients to see?  notes to write? skills to practice?  research to read? reflecting to do?  a dog to keep alive?” etc etc.  Some of the questions people pose bring about interesting discussion, but in my opinion a lot of it is just hot air, semantics and NOT GOING TO HELP YOU HELP YOUR PATIENTS.

I’m not saying social media isn’t a good thing – it is.  I’ve made tons of great connections, started a blog, and yes, I’ve gotten good mentorship this way.  BUT.  If you’re spending hours a day scrolling through posts and responses, or posing your own esoteric/philosophical questions, and – yeah, I’m about to say it – INTERACTING ONLY WITH YOUR OWN PROFESSION, then what are you really doing??

Here is a Buzzfeed-style list of things you can do to improve your patient care that don’t involve staring at facebook posts:

  1. Read actual science.  There are these things called journals, like JOSPT and PTJ and BJSM and they are full of good information and new ideas.  You should be reading this stuff REGULARLY.  and don’t just skim the abstract – look at the methods closely.  Does this study reflect the patients you treat? Is this intervention something you should try?  Bonus: find a classmate, professor,  or coworker to discuss the articles with (trust me your professors will be THRILLED to do this with you! They love students who actually give a ****! ).
  2. Practice your manual skills.  Don’t just show off on your practical exams and forget about CPAs and UPAs and thrust manips.  This isn’t just a degree you’re getting, this is your CAREER and you are going to be doing this stuff ON ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS IN PAIN.  So keep it fresh! Find a buddy and devote a few hours a week to practicing your hands-on skills.
  3. Volunteer your time.  There are SO many opportunities in your community.  Organize FMS screens for a local gym or sports team.  Help with pre-participation physicals or concussion baseline testing.  Teach an exercise class for Parkinson’s patients, play baseball with children with cerebral palsy.  These are just a few of the things that I’ve been able to do while in PT school.  OR, if you need a break from PT, walk some shelter doggos or build a house for Habitat! It will feel SO MUCH BETTER than engaging in a twitter war!
  4. Exercise.  Guys….We’re the movement experts.  If you are not moving your own body on a regular basis, then you cannot be a movement expert!  Explore different ways of training – try running, cycling, swimming (I’m not biased at all….), or get in the gym and learn to snatch and clean. Or just go for  a walk, because we all need to clear our heads after 8 hours of class.  When you’re a PT, time spent playing with movement is NEVER wasted!
  5. Have a life outside of the PT world.  Let me put it this way:  If I spent tons of time engaging in meaningless social media debates rather than paying attention to my fiance, do you really think I’d be planning a wedding right now?  I don’t. I definitely want to be walking down that aisle in a white dress and would ideally like to stay married till I die SO….Get off your computer and spend time with the people in your life that really matter – they’re not going to be around forever.
  6. Shadow another PT.  Everyone treats differently, and this is just as valuable when you’ve got your own practice as it was during school! Get out there and see how someone else gets success with their patients, ask them questions, ask them to teach you techniques.
  7. Shadow a different professional.  This is SO important!  As Don Reagan says when he talks about Mastery, you have to go WIDE as well as DEEP in your learning.  If you only experience one field, then you’re not really growing! Get out there and shadow a surgeon, or a chiropractor (need ideas? I know some good ones, hit me up).  There are SO many posts in some physical therapy facebook groups that are just meant to bash chiropractors and I can’t help but think….y’all don’t know what you’re missing.  You have SO much to learn from chiropractors! And surgeons! And nurses! and athletic trainers!
  8. Relax.  Do you even know what this word means? LOL.  But really, you can’t pour from an empty cup.  Let your brain rest by watching tv, reading a fun book, going on a nature walk WITHOUT YOUR DAMN PODCASTS, or you know….sleeping….

And when you do use social media?  Don’t spend so much of that time interacting just with other PTs! In my opinion, it’s not really helping that much!  Share the word about PT, share your vision WITH YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY.  GET THE WORD OUT about our profession to the people who don’t know or care about it yet! That’s where the gold is, we are not doing any good just talking to each other! How do we really move our profession forward?  Or, a better goal, how do we effect change in this nation’s overall health?  By talking to the people who could probably benefit from what we have to offer, not just preaching to the choir.

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