The Important Things

Well….hello again! It’s certainly been awhile since my last article, and for that I wholeheartedly apologize.  It’s been a busy 2018, but I’m happy to report that I crushed all of my goals. Some updates on my life:

-I was accepted to the Sports PT Residency program at Virginia Commonwealth University!  I start at the end of July – that is, if it’s actually still for real (still pinching myself 3 months later and will probably still be doing so till approximately October ;-))

-I took – AND PASSED – the National Physical Therapy Exam, which means I am now licensed to practice in Virginia!

-I graduated as a doctor of physical therapy from Duke University!

-I became a certified Emergency Medical Responder through the American Red Cross and the Sports Section of the APTA, which means I can provide on-field emergency care to injured and concussed athletes.

-And last but not least…..ya girl got MARRIED!  I guess I’m Mrs. FitNerdPhysio now.

Lots of life changes for me recently, and really the focus of this year so far – and the year of residency to come – is personal and professional growth.  I haven’t been great about writing, mainly because it’s been imperative that I 1) pass my clinical rotation 2) pass boards, 3) graduate and 4) not give my mom a heart attack during wedding planning.  But,  the more I think about it, the more I realize that I do have a lot to share – and I don’t want to put that off until “after residency”. So here I am, back to talk about all things sports, running, triathlon, strength, health, physical therapy, girl power, etc….

To start, I’ll leave you with a few really important things I learned in PT school: (Examples are specific to PT but applicable to anyone)

1.  YOU should be your own #1 priority. 

Sounds selfish right?  I don’t really think so.  I struggled with a lot of health issues during my clinical rotations – severe insomnia, anxiety, several viruses and stomach bugs, and the emotional aftermath of the deaths of relatives and friends – and still showed up to clinic.  And let me tell you – it is NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to provide high quality care to other people when you yourself are suffering.  It wasn’t until I started prioritizing myself (focusing on my sleep, seeing a therapist, taking the time to meal prep, getting back into running and – shocker -doing things simply because they’re fun?) that I really started to 1) get better at figuring out what my patients needed, 2) connect with people more closely and 3) actually ENJOY what I was doing for 10+ hours a day.  When I spent more time on my own well-being, my patients got better faster, I made stronger connections with them, and I actually looked forward to going in to clinic every day. Self-care is not selfish – it drastically improves your ability to help other people. I’m not saying you should leave work early to get a pedicure (please be responsible), but don’t neglect yourself.

2. Communication is your most important skill

I learned a lot of really cool mobilization and manipulation techniques during my  internships.  My technique and my clinical reasoning improved….but I don’t really think that these skills did much for my clinical outcomes.  In fact, over the course of my internships, I found myself performing less and less manual therapy and more and more exercise, education, and troubleshooting.  This isn’t super scientific, but I noticed that my patients who did the best were the ones that I had the best relationships with.  The better I communicated with someone, the more compliant they were, and the better they were able to tell me what was and wasn’t working.  The best part?  Communication and listening are SKILLS that can be taught and developed over time. No matter how shy, introverted, or awkward you are, you can learn to communicate well. I think every PT, regardless of setting, should be working on these skills with just as much zest as we do our manual skills.

3  Your colleagues are your main source of continuing education

Another important thing about communication is to USE IT with your colleagues! (my examples are specific to PT but I believe this is true no matter what it is you do for a living). Unless you’re opening a practice all by yourself you are likely surrounded by other PTs, and maybe even some ATCs and strength coaches.  Talk to them – that’s how you learn. I was fortunate enough to have my last internship in an environment that was extremely collaborative – I could ask any PT in the room their opinion on a difficult case.  If I had a cancellation or some downtime, I could approach any PT (who didn’t have their own student) and ask to observe them treating for a bit. As a new clinician, I feel like this is so important – you’re not going to have the answers all the time, and you’re not always going to have oodles of time during the day to do a lit review – but the PT next to you might have the insight you need. And if you’re lucky enough to have strength coaches, ATCs, and MDs in the same building – even better. I’ve learned more from the people around me this year than in any (and every!) book I’ve ever read. Asking for help on a tough case or simply asking someone to teach you a new skill never makes you look stupid – it shows you’re eager to grow.

4. If you’re not having fun….find a new job. 

I struggled at the beginning of PT school and internships.  I seriously had moments where I wondered if I was even in the right profession.  It wasn’t until my third internship that I really began to enjoy practicing PT and looking forward to my day in clinic.  I came in early, I stayed late, and I looked forward to it. In a nutshell, I felt like I was THRIVING as a PT, not just surviving an internship – and I was having FUN.  I think most people provide better patient care when they’re thriving and having fun, and I think that’s a more important thing to consider in a job than the salary.  Find a place where you can thrive as a PT, where you can have fun, where you feel energized by your work instead of beat down by it.  This is one of the main reasons I chose to go for a residency – it sounds like the most exciting job ever, and that feeling is going to go a long way when the work gets hard (don’t worry guys, I’m not living in rainbow unicorn land -I know it’s going to be hard most of the time!).

In short – take care of yourself and make sure you’re enjoying your work – you’ll be better at your job.  For better outcomes (definitely in PT, but probably in any profession), work on your communication skills. And never underestimate the wealth of knowledge you can gain simply by starting a conversation with the person next to you!

Until next time,

Dr. Kate

*thoughts, opinions, and experiences are my own


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