Many of us know the feeling. You don’t want to get out of bed on Monday morning and when you finally do, the dread of going into work is like anticipating a practical exam. During PT school, you swore nothing would be as bad as having to take practicals and you counted down the days to when they would be a thing of the past. But then something happened. You found yourself in a job you don’t love realizing that you would rather do a practical exam than go into work… yeah, your job feels that bad.
If you have a job that makes you miss the days of being a stressed student with no paycheck, I feel for you. Feeling like you hate work is not something you signed up for when you gave up seven years of your life and a ton of money. But, I have to tell you something important. Hating your job may be the fastest way to having the one you love. Hating your job may be a good...
About week ago I was standing looking out at Niagara Falls with some of my favorite people. I wasn’t on vacation, I was working. And I wasn’t just working. I had traveled with colleagues to Buffalo to use the Y-Balance Test (one of my "professional babies") for testing the players at the NHL Combine. This wasn’t my typical Thursday, but its not completely unusual either. However, if you asked me what I was doing 15 years ago on a Wednesday afternoon, the backdrop would have appeared a lot different than the 8th wonder of the natural world and professional sports.
15 years ago I was in the clinic full time. I was working a typical schedule and imagining a day with more athletes, more flexibility, and honestly something different. I remember thinking maybe PT was no longer for me. I still remember the level of frustration on one particular day when I was doing passive ROM on what felt like the 20th rotator cuff repair of the day.
In a previous post we discussed the truth behind apparent mastery. It evidently hit a nerve. Either people said they had felt this way or were going to pass it on to a current student. It made me wonder if we are causing the feeling of burnout in PT school.
Here’s what I think happens:
You start PT school so excited….you have worked so hard to get there. You finally get there and you know it will be hard, but maybe not this hard. It’s okay, at least you are FINALLY studying something you actually care about (not how a lens works or how many moles are in 3 grams of Copper). Then it hits. You are once again studying things you don’t care about. There are only a few classes that actually breath life into you. But you are told to bide your time because it will get better. You believe this wholeheartedly, put your head down, and keep working toward the finish line.
You are filled with the ideas of how important what you are learning is. It is about...
“She saw 36!! And one was just lying across the trail!”
“What?!? How is this allowed?”
“I DON’T KNOW”
This was the conversation before my friend and I went to Everglades National Park. We couldn’t believe that there were going to be rogue alligators next to us on a bike trail. No confinement, no cages, no barriers between us and them- just us and wild alligators.
Now, I’ve seen the discovery channel and allowing this did not seem appropriate. But, everyday hundreds of people explore the Everglades and I figured if they could do it so could I.
So we start driving to the park and on the way we see our first alligator. I’m instantly excited. Afraid? No way, not anymore. I planned to photograph every alligator we saw.
The first two miles we were on the lookout for alligators with laser focus to make sure we didn’t miss a single one. Those first two miles of the fifteen were glorious. We...
I need to get this out in the open. I’ll be the first to tell you that physical therapy is awesome and that you can have an insanely rewarding career in it. But, I didn’t always feel that way.
I’ll be honest, the moment I passed my SCS exam, was the exact moment I also realized everything I hated about physical therapy.
Let me explain...
So here’s what my path (and many of our paths) in physical therapy look like:
Get into grad school
Graduate PT school
Pass the boards
Complete a residency
Achieve board specialization
Suddenly I reached the end of this LONG plan with no where else to go. I achieved an incredible amount, but shortly after passing the SCS, I found myself dissatisfied.
As I was working toward residency and board certification, I rarely had time to think about anything else except the finish line. I had tunnel vision - get to the end. But when it ended, my blinders were ripped...
“There’s nothing I can do,” I proclaimed adamantly.
It was the end of July and with the summer months had come the much promised drought of athletes. School was out, most sports were on a break, and a majority of athletes were on vacation.
I noticed the number of athletes on my schedule begin to decline, but I was in denial that I would be affected by what everyone told me was coming.
By no means do I dislike my other patients, but active individuals are my favorite to work with. Having a few throughout the day is exciting and makes me that much better for my non-active patients.
Yet, I suddenly found my caseload had one lone active patient. I was in a clinic with at least six other therapists that also wanted a similar caseload. Between the summer months and the competition, I knew my caseload was doomed. The worst part, I couldn’t see an end in sight. I kept getting unlucky with the evaluations that were on my...
Graduate PT school, check. Complete a sports residency, check. Pass the SCS exam, check.
My resume was growing, but my engagement in physical therapy was shrinking. The last two months had been spent studying for the Sports Certified Specialist Exam. It was the last thing on my list of things to accomplish. And now that I had, I felt disappointed. Is this all there is?
My notes were done, I wasn’t tired, and I didn’t feel burnt out. But, I had no excitement for physical therapy. Doing a residency and passing my specialty exam was supposed to inspire me, but here I was just going through the motions day in and day out.
Continuing education courses suddenly became my drug of choice. I’d feel so good after going to a course that I would convince myself I needed more. I kept going to courses, feeling excited about what I learned, and then slowly losing interest. I repeated the pattern over and over, but eventually realized it was only a temporary solution.
I knew I...
“Is it Friday yet?” I proclaimed jokingly at 8:45 on Monday morning. Truth be told, I was only half joking. I was already counting down the hours until lunch at which point I would then start counting the hours until the end of the day. More than likely, I would then start counting down the days until the beloved Friday appeared.
I didn’t think much of it. I wasn’t alone. I exchanged similar texts with many friends. I considered myself normal. Everyone loves the weekend.
But, I went from looking forward to the weekend to needing the weekend. I would hit this wall on Wednesday that was nearly impossible to get through.
Halfway through Wednesday, I would find myself impatient, annoyed and frustrated. It would take all of my energy not to check out. Feeling exhausted, I would use Wednesday-Friday nights and the weekend as a way to recharge.
I’d watch Netflix, go out, and do anything to take my mind off physical therapy. If I wanted any sort of engagement...
“How long have you been a PT?” my patient asked as we started to wrap up her initial evaluation.
“Almost two years” I answered.
“Do you like it?” she continued.
“I do.” I raised my voice slightly and repeated, “Yeah, I do.” I added a reassuring smile and a slight head nod at the end of the statement.
We finished chatting, she walked away to schedule her next appointment, and I went to the back office to sit down. My elbows met the desk and my hands found my forehead immediately. I was tired after a long day, and now I also felt uneasy. Could she tell? No, I think I sold it.
I looked around to see if anyone had overheard our conversation or had sensed any of my insincerity. Nope, everyone seemed busy. I exhaled in relief. My secret was still safe.
The last thing I wanted my co-workers to know was that I didn’t like physical therapy. Really, I didn’t want anyone to know. Who spends seven years in school and...
This was NOT how I wanted to spend a Sunday. The previous week’s documentation had piled up leaving me with a screen full of unfinished notes. This was nothing new. It seemed like most nights and weekends were spent catching up on documentation. To say I was annoyed by documentation was an understatement, I was angry over it. And while I was sick of it, I knew there was no escaping it. Yet, there was an escape, just not in the way I hoped….
As we sat in the stands, we argued about when Bon Jovi would play Livin’ On a Prayer. We debated when, not if they would play the song. Bon Jovi can’t do a show without playing their signature song, fans would revolt. That’s when it hit me- how difficult it must be to play the same song over and over with the same intensity as the first time. Bon Jovi first played the song in 1985 and most recently played it September 2018 during their current tour. It cannot be enjoyable to play a song upwards of 1500 times and...