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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