Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pushing Practice

I've always been a little indecisive. When I was a kid and someone would ask me what my favorite color was I would say "All of them. No, wait, purple. No, shiny metallic blue. No, no purple with shiny sparkles! Final answer." Well, I guess I haven't changed much in the past 26 years, because it has dawned on me that this is the exact quality that is beginning to shape me as a physical therapist. And, I'm realizing that isn't such a bad thing. Throughout school I loved EVERY topic we covered... even the practice areas I never thought I'd be interested in. I always had trouble choosing sections to be a member of, courses to attend at conferences, and don't even get me started on considering a residency after graduation!

As we went through school, I kept thinking that I'd figure it out before graduation. Well, it didn't happen. So, I decided to create my own little unique experience for my first year of work (now that I think about it, its kinda funny that I was an interdisciplinary major in undergrad... ha ha... I never quite realized how in line that was with my personality!) Anyways, for my first year of work I worked 4 days a week in an outpatient orthopedic private practice, where I was given the opportunity to take my interests and run with them. Little did my boss know what he was getting himself into! The calm quiet orthopedic clinic in a very affluent Atlanta suburb was suddenly filled with dizzy people, kids scooting around on the scooter board that had only ever been used for the occasional balance exercise, Spanish being spoken across the gym, and the occasional screaming baby who just wasn't in the mood for therapy that day (in the newly converted baby treatment room in the back of the clinic.) Outside of my 4 days a week at the outpatient clinic, I worked PRN 1 day a week (theoretically just one day...) at a pediatric acute care hospital, where I got to cover ever floor from ortho to neuro to trauma to oncology to cardiac and even some wound care. I managed to weasel my way into just about every practice area I was interested in.

It was the hardest thing in the world for me when I decided to uproot my life and jobs that I loved to take a new opportunity recently that just kept clawing its way into my thoughts until I gave in. So, I put all of my stuff in storage, said a teary "see ya in a year!" to my wonderful friends in Atlanta, and headed out to Vegas to live the life of a showgirl!!! Well, sort of. I took a job as a physical therapist on a traveling Broadway show.... And we are currently in Vegas for a few months. I work nights, eat in the casino underground dining hall for employees every night, have crazy roommates (a pirate in the treasure island show, an acrobat in cirque du soliel, and a go go dancer!), and still don't believe that this is all actually happening. I've had alot of time to think out here... mostly cause I spend alot of time lying around resting my sore hands!!!! So, I've been reflecting on all the great experiences I've had already in my almost two years of practicing. I've started to realize that I may never fit clearly into a section or a clinical specialty or even any specific job that is out there.... and this has now started to create an idea in my head that keeps clawing its way into my thoughts! And we know how that goes! I know its a little ways off, but I now have this concept growing in my head of what I may want my own clinic to be someday. Somewhere that combines physical therapy, wellness, community, laughter, and life; a clinic I can make my own and push the normal practice patterns that are divided up for us in school.

I'd love to hear if any of you have ideas for pushing practice patterns, as well!!! I'm fascinated with this at the moment. Anyways, to conclude, I'm quite happy to say that once I set myself free of worrying about boundaries and of needing to decide in which area I belong, I am finding myself very much at peace with my identity as a physical therapist. And, also, quite happy that purple with shiny sparkles is still my favorite color. =)


  1. You sound like the voices inside my head! (except for the sparkly periwinkle thing going on). I hope that being your own boss in your own clinic is a license to push boundaries and do what you want with wellness and community, because that's exactly what I'm planning on.

    If I can ever decide one place to stay for more than a few months at a time, I'll let know how hanging my sign goes!

  2. Kate, I love the analogy between colors and professional interests! With so many fascinating niches, it can be really challenging to choose a focus in our field. I think people like you deserve major props for choosing such a dynamic path. I have another friend that has toured with a rock band (technically country) as their personal PT. The two of you certainly defy the conventional image of young therapists!

    As far as practice patterns, I would personally love to see more therapists moving into the realm of community centered, activity-based interventions. If PTs and PTAs can help foster community wellness, our opportunities and impact will truly be limitless! In order to do so though we really need to look beyond the current payment paradigm and find ways to more clearly demonstrate our value to groups. I'm not thinking of group therapy but "team wellness" or something along those lines.

    My imagination probably makes it seem more feasible than these words. And the skill set is definitely not currently represented in academia. But I sincerely believe it's a direction we need to go as a profession. Anyone else had that thought?


  3. That's exactly the idea I've been leaning toward! I love that term you have coined..... "team wellness". I'm thinking of something along the same lines with the youth population. My mind is running crazy with the awesome possibilities! I love it!