PT Autonomy or Monotony?

burnout career Oct 03, 2020

At my work, a texting system is the main communication between the front desk and the therapists. When a patient arrives, we get a text or if there is a walk-in evaluation we will get a text. Sometimes a text will simply be an update or a question, but for the most part, it alerts us that a patient has arrived.

So, at 7:56 am my phone vibrates. I take it out and my 8 am patient is here. This continues one after another after another.  Your patient is here.  Your patient is here.  Your patient is here.  At 11:27 am, I feel the vibration and instead of “your patient is here” it reads “we need more clipboards if anyone has any.”  I’m met with a sigh of relief.  It isn’t my 11:30 patient.  I have a minute to myself.  The relief I feel is significant.  I shouldn’t be this excited that the front desk needs clipboards, but I am.  It is a break in the monotony.

The morning, the day, actually the...

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Having trouble balancing life? You are not alone

burnout career life balance Jul 16, 2020
 

I have no idea why I still remember this memory so vividly today. It was over a decade ago, but for some reason it made an imprint...

“I haven’t been here in a while,” she said sheepishly as if embarrassed. I took her membership card and scanned it. “Have a good workout,” I said as she walked into the locker room.

I looked at the login screen, she hadn’t been into the gym for 19 days and before that it had been over a month. I looked at her birthday and quickly did the math. She was 28 years old. I remember thinking to myself, “That will never be me.” I couldn’t understand how someone could be a member and could go an entire month without coming to the gym.

I remember thinking about that moment in undergrad when I’d stay out most of the night and still make it to the gym. I thought about that moment in PT school when I kept my workout routine even on the busiest of weeks.

But, then residency came and I remember skipping...

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The Maze of PT

burnout career uncertainty May 28, 2020

You can always depend on the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore to have some weird attraction you are willing to spend money on.  One of the most memorable was a maze, but instead of walls, it was filled with mirrors.  You are basically surrounded by an infinite number of your own reflections in all directions.  It was difficult to know whether there was a wall in front of you or not, because the mirror screwed with your depth perception. Now, that would have been hard enough to navigate through. 

However a group of us wanted to make it near impossible and also highly dangerous.  We wanted to see who could get through the maze fastest.  

So, we all took off as fast as possible.  Within seconds, each of us was met head on by one of the mirrors.  Then you’d bounce off, turn, and go another way eventually running into a mirror again. 

By the third or fourth collision you learned to slow down your speed to prevent permanent bodily...

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PT Used to Suck

burnout career Apr 02, 2020
 
 
I want to tell you about Ted (his name and identifying details have been changed, but the rest is the same).
 
On the first call with Ted, he told me that PT sucks and that he felt lost.
 
It wasn't that he didn't know what he was doing or even that he didn't know what he wanted to do in PT.  The problem was that he didn't know how to get there.
 
It was hard to listen as he blamed himself for how he felt.  He felt guilty about how annoyed he was with his current position.  
 
Ted was describing The Life Cycle of a PT or the first half of it at least.  He wasn't sure what was next, his expectations weren't being met, and he felt stuck.  
 
These aren't uncommon feelings, but what comes next ultimately defines how you progress as a PT.  The first thing Ted had to do was believe that things could be different.  By doing this, he entered into the second half of The Life Cycle of a PT or...
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Does this make me a bad PT?

burnout career Mar 19, 2020
 
Years ago, I remember talking with Phil in the final months of residency.  He asked me if I could create the career I wanted, what would look like?
 
I only had a partial picture at the time and I went home to think more about it.  I remember writing down working with athletes, a flexible schedule, hour long treatment sessions, and wellness visits.  I was in the infancy of figuring out my ideal career, but for some reason I still felt like something big was missing.  In fact, I knew something big was missing.  But, I didn't want to admit it.
 
I didn't want to treat patients 40 hours a week.  I didn't want to see patients all day long.  
 
And I couldn't help thinking, does that make me a bad PT?  I was only 1 year into the profession and already wanting to decrease my treatment hours.  It made me start to doubt my future in PT.  If I'm one year in and don't want to treat full-time, do I even...
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Why doesn’t the excitement from CSM last?

burnout career Feb 24, 2020

Have you experienced it yet? That sinking feeling when you get back from CSM.

While I am at CSM I always feel so invigorated and excited about PT. Then you get back to the day to day grind of PT and all that passion and positivity seems to fade away. At least that is how I used to feel.

Why do we feel so good when we are there but that feeling never lasts as long as we would like?

I first thought it was because we were learning new things. It has been said that those who are continually learning have much more career happiness. But that can’t be all there is to it. If that were the case, watching online continuing education courses would be enough. Don't get me wrong, I get a lot out of online continuing education like MedBridge, but it does not fulfill one of our deepest needs --- community.

We were meant to be in community. We were not meant to do this PT career thing alone. What we do as PTs is hard. It is emotionally draining to listen to people tell you about all their...

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I hesitate to even write this post

burnout career Jan 31, 2020

I hesitate to even write this post. I am afraid it will be taken as boastful. I am also afraid that people won’t want to hear the point of the post. But I am going to do it anyway because I think this message is so essential for our careers. At least it was a turning point in mine.

It was 19 degrees with below zero windchill. Earlier in the day I had gotten windburn on my face from just walking around a bit. The kids and I were on the way home from basketball practice and there was a car pulled off the road with its hazards on. What a horrible night to be stranded!

So I rolled down my window and asked if they needed help -- a mom and her two kids had a flat tire. So I got out to help (they didn’t have gloves, coats and hats).

I didn’t do anything special. I just did what most people would have done. Interestingly enough, I hate working on cars. Even worse, I hate changing tires without the proper tools. Using the jack that comes with a car is an exercise in...

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The Grass IS Greener At The Other Job

burnout career Nov 22, 2019

My days in a typical outpatient clinic have been over for some time, but I will never forget the feeling. It felt like my hundredth patient of the day with a rotator cuff repair, and as I stood holding his arm he started telling me about his cat. 

I struggled to listen to the small talk as I remembered all the notes I still hadn’t finished from earlier in the week. Worse yet, I had a week’s worth of notes to do. Did I really go to school that long for this?

This wasn’t the first time that I felt stuck with my day to day in clinic.  To cope with the frustration and disappointment I felt, I let my mind wander to one of my favorite daydreams.  Whenever the clinic started to feel unbearable, I would dream about going back to my lawn service business. Those summers cutting lawns were so great….

I was outside

I was physically active

When I cut the lawn, it never complained, it was never “worse” after I cut it

No one could talk to me...

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Where’s the PT career I dreamed about in PT school?

burnout career Nov 15, 2019

I dropped my backpack and sunk into the couch. 

I had held it together all day and I was now moments away from a full blown pity party. I HATE talking about these moments, but the more people I talk to, the more I realize we all have them.  

I had finished an average day in the clinic.  A day that in isolation would not have seemed that bad.  But, it felt like it was my millionth average day in a row.  I was just going into work, treating patients, listening to their problems (many not even PT related), and going home absolutely exhausted.

The monotony and emotional fatigue started an unstoppable stream of thoughts. 

PT sucks. I hate work. I can’t listen to anymore patients.

I can’t listen to anymore complaints. Is it really THAT hard to do home exercises?

What about me, am I in the same place I was last year? Have I made ANY progress toward the career I want? Holy crap, I haven’t.

Seriously, is this all there is? Does an...

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The Real Reason You Don't Love Your Career In PT

burnout career what's next Nov 11, 2019

“How long have you been practicing?” she asked me.

“Almost 5 years,” I said, thinking nothing of it.

“Wow, I would have never expected it to be that long,” she quickly replied.

I went from relaxed to uneasy instantaneously.  Wow, five years is a long time.  Is she asking because I seem like a novice?  Am I still a novice? I guess I’m not as far as I should be or as far as I thought I would be.  She’s right, I should have accomplished more than this by now. What have I been doing for five years?  

I thought all of these things in the slight pause before she followed it up with, “You look like you’re 21.”

This patient encounter happened a while ago, but the uncertainty it caused stuck around for a while.  In fact, I’m not sure it ever left. I think its been there all along. Since PT school, I’ve wondered if I am enough and if I’m doing enough.  The doubts and...

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