Monthly Archives: January 2012

Social Roles

I have worked as a physical therapy technician for the better part of two years. It’s allowed me to look at the inner workings of outpatient orthopedic clinics. Being in a clinic and working with patients gives me a chance to develop and learn greatly. I get to see things that those simply observing or volunteering can’t see.

One surprising example is that some patients treat their appointment time like a social event. This is understandable: most physical therapists are friendly people, and if you interact closely with someone for three times a week, you tend to develop at least a casual social relationship with them.

Extreme cases in this spectrum are sadly and startlingly abundant. Coming into physical therapy is their sole social interaction. There are numerous examples of the elderly patient who lives alone, and subjectively reports that their children are all too busy to visit them. Or the past-their-prime party girls who linger for thirty minutes after their appointment has ended.

These people would be perfectly okay with a treatment-less session where they just sat and talked to the clinic staff. At times, I must admit that their physical rehabilitation short sightedness is irritating. Then I remind myself that rehabilitation isn’t the only way I can help these people. I can deferentially cede to this social role, so long as treatment is still the primary goal.


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Saying No

Before I received a formal acceptance from a physical therapy program, I was a mess. I was downtrodden and pessimistic about my chances of being accepted. And the weight of what I had sacrificed — a promising business career with its financial security — began to weigh heavily on my mind.

The first three admissions decisions I received were rejections. Big, fat, negative rejections. They pushed me to the edge of neuroses. They were dark, 100-foot swells that pushed me further from shore and muted any sign of light.

Lingering doubts began to fog my mind, which especially affected my motivation during my last prerequisite courses. I began to ask myself, “what’s the point of these community college classes if I’m just going to get rejected anyway?”

After one trying lab practical, I checked my phone and saw that I had gotten a voicemail. It was an acceptance. It mean that I finally had a chance to be a physical therapist. It meant that, no matter what, I was going to physical therapy school somewhere. It was one of the happier moments in my adult life, and it signified that the struggle was worth it.

I was so relieved that when I got back into my parked car, I sobbed. I couldn’t help it: years of pent up frustration and worry melted away. It actually took several hours for me to realize that I was accepted and safe.

To sweeten the pot, the program director, who left the initial voicemail, turned out to be an incredibly nice and encouraging person. They truly went above and beyond, in terms of reaching out to me, talking about the program strengths and addressing any issues about relocating to that city. Graduate admissions processes tend to be very faceless interactions, with lots of paperwork and transcripts obscuring the fact that someone’s hopes and dreams are buried under all of the clutter. This program director served as a one of the few spots of humanity during this process; they treated me like a person, not just another numbered applicant.

Today, I called that program director to tell them that I needed to withdraw my letter of intent. The conversation was actually very pleasant: they made sure that I had accepted an offer elsewhere and they said that they were sad that they wouldn’t have me in class. It went as well as I could have hoped but it was personally unsettling all the same.

In my mind, they were the first ones to take a chance on me. And I’ve spurned them.¬†Getting accepted by this school was such a joyous occasion that, although I’ve made the right decision, the finality of saying “no” to them was jolting.

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Some Lovers Try Positions That They Can’t Handle

Most people entering physical therapy school inevitably become anxious about their academic readiness. Last summer, my friends entering PT school were extremely worried about the rigors of curriculum.

Everyone who has been through PT school has said that the first week will hit you like a bunch of bricks. They say that you’re guaranteed at least a Grade II concussion. And then the fun part is that each week piles right on to the one earlier.

In an effort to hedge this steep learning curve, I’ve begun to review my anatomy. When I decided to pursue physical therapy, two years ago, I bought a Fourth Edition Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy. I figured that I’d have to buy an atlas for PT school anyway, and this way, I would be able to study from it. Plus it kind of made me feel like a real member of the medical community. Like a balding Doogie Howser, DPT.

However, each page is extremely detailed so it’s information overload if you’re casually studying. So, I decided to pick up Netter’s Anatomy Flash Cards (purchased for about $36) from the local Barnes & Noble. I’ve found that it’s helpful in breaking anatomy up into manageable pieces. It’s also a lot easier to study while watching a basketball game or while relaxing.

Reviewing terms has been good so far. I’ve definitely forgotten a lot of stuff since taking Anatomy & Physiology, during which our white bread, 50-year-old physician assistant professor stone-facedly gave us dirty mnemonics for everything. With stuff like that, how could I ever have forgotten the carpal bones?

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