Do you feel guilty as a PT not wanting to treat patients from 8-5 for the rest of your career?

Over the past few months, I have heard one common heartbreaking theme expressed by many of our coaching clients in the Bulletproof Career Rebellion. Frequently, they share similar statements followed by some tears. Statements like the following seem to be more common than any other topics discussed.

“I know this makes me a bad PT, but I just don’t want to be in the clinic full-time.”


“I hate to say this, but I really don’t want to treat patients full-time five years from now.”

This just breaks my heart. Not for the reason you may think. You would think I would be sad that they don’t want to be in patient care anymore. That’s not it. I am sad because they feel guilty for wanting to fulfill their dreams. I feel badly because these individuals assume that if they don’t want to work 9-5 in the clinic then that’s all there is and all there will be. If you have ever felt this way, stop blaming yourself and know that there is another way. There is hope. Your future may or may not involve patient care. But I can promise you, there can be a future where you love Monday mornings.

Here are some actions you can take to break the 8-5 blues:

1) Don’t feel guilty. Seriously, don’t.

For some reason, PTs assume that to make a mark in the field they need to be in the clinic full time. Yet, there are many PTs who are not in patient care forty hours who are doing exceptionally meaningful things in their family, career, and society. There are many PTs still in physical therapy, but not in the clinic full time. Your degree did focus on making you a safe and competent clinical PT. While most of what you learned in PT school focused around the clinic, you are prepared for so much more.

Action Step: Be comfortable saying, “I like PT, I just don’t like 8-5 patient care PT.” Start owning and accepting that it doesn’t have to be this way. (the less guilt you feel, the more action you can take… plus the better you feel)

2) Identify the true problem before you try to solve it.
The problem may be with working 8-5…. Or it may not be. Sometimes it is not necessarily working in the clinic or treating patients specifically. It may be who you are working with or the circumstances you are working with. Consider the following:
Do you not like patient care because you don’t like your current caseload? Don’t like where you work? Don’t like your employer?

Are there other things you want to do? Can you do those things and be in patient care? Do you want to?

Are you actually just seeking freedom and flexibility? In the Bulletproof Career Rebellion Course we go into depth discussing the need for flexibility along with all of the Five Freedoms we are all seeking.

Most often it is a combination of these factors but frequently we tend to blame our most painful factor for everything. For example, we say “I can’t stand treating patients.” In reality, there may be only 2-4 patients in a day that drag us down. Simply removing this type of patient and replacing him with the ideal type of patient would transform your day.

Action Point: Determine the root of why you feel the way you do. If you aren’t happy with your circumstances you may not want or need to get out of treating patients full time, but rather change your circumstances. If even under the ideal circumstances you still want out, then it may be time to figure out what is next for you.

Guilt trip side note: As PTs most of us feel guilty not wanting to work with a certain type of patient in our specialty. That’s garbage. We were all created to fill a unique purpose. An easy example for me is acute care. While I am fully capable of treating patients in acute care and I believe those patients deserve the best care, it's just not for me. I don’t like that setting. The cool thing is that there are a lot of acute care PTs that LOVE acute but hate outpatient sports/ortho. It is so awesome that we are all unique in our gifts and interests.

3) Align your goals and reality with YOUR priorities
This might be one of the sneakiest places that discontent can creep into your day and as a matter of fact, your life. I frequently work with PTs who have had a goal of working in professional sports since before they started PT school. They hold on to that goal without ever re-evaluating it. They keep that goal, but are unwilling to make the life and career sacrifices necessary to achieve that goal (lots of continuing education and tons of non-paid work in sports well beyond the 8-5 day). This creates a disconnect where they feel badly that they are not achieving their professional goal but don’t realize it doesn’t align with personal values.

Action Step: Define your values. Set aside some time to re-evaluate where you are and what is important to you. After you have spent some time outlining your values, use them to determine if patient care helps or hinders the ability to uphold them.
Your values help determine which goals you want to go after and which may conflict with what is important to you. It is at this point that a decision has to be made. Do you want the goal or a lifestyle that better upholds your values? If there is conflicting pieces, you usually can’t have both. I made the decision a long time ago to not work in professional sports because I wanted other areas of my life to be a focus. But here is the difference, I clearly articulated that I didn’t want that as a goal and I set alternate ones. Thus, I don’t have the constant angst of a goal mismatched with my priorities.

I don’t want people to feel guilty about not wanting a 9-5 job, but even more so, I don’t want people to feel like they are destined to be stuck in a 9-5 job. There are other options. I think one of the most impactful things we do in the Bulletproof Career Rebellion Course is uncover and show people their options. Some people determine patient care is not for them and are able to pivot where others may have more difficulty identifying what’s next. If your current job of 9-5 patient care is not what you want, we want to help you figure out what else there is. We are here when you need help, but for now, if nothing else… stop feeling guilty.


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