5 Things You Never Learned in PT School

5 Things You Never Learned in PT School

This week’s guest blog comes from Dr. Letty Krueger PT, DPT, CSCS. Letty is a talented young therapist who graduated from the University of Vermont in 2014. Her dedication to the profession, and personal drive, have helped her earn a leadership role at one of the best outpatient private practices in the country. Here's some advice Letty has for physical therapy students and new graduates as they enter their professional careers in rehabilitation. 

5 Things You Never Learned in PT School

Dr. Letty Krueger PT, DPT, CSCS

The transition from student to professional can be a tough one, and there are certain things never touched on in physical therapy school. Over my first couple years of practice, I’ve learned a couple key points.

You Must Sell Yourself: 

Physical therapy is a business, and patients are consumers. As a physical therapist, you are not only an expert in your field, but you are also a salesperson. You must sell yourself, your practice, your profession, and your plan of care. Treatment alone is only part of the entire physical therapy experience for a patient. With direct access, patients are able to take control of their own health care, and as competition intensifies the value of customer service and positive patient interaction is increasingly important.  

Achieving desired outcomes is largely dependent on patient satisfaction. Building good rapport is a key component of physical therapy practice and directly correlates to reaching positive outcomes. Your rapport with patients will also affect adherence, and likelihood of referral to family and friends. The confidence you portray directly resonates to a patient’s confidence in you. Make a good first impression, keep wait times to a minimum, and maintain consistent communication with patients.

Don’t Become Complacent: 

Human beings are incredibly variable, and what works for one patient may not work for another with exactly the same subjective complaints and objective measures.  Avoid getting stuck in one school of thought. Being a physical therapist isn’t only about treating a condition, but about addressing the multi-faceted nature of pain.  Don’t become hyper-focused on treating a patient’s low back pain, and forget to take a step back, and look at the whole human being. 

Prioritize Continuing Education: 

When applying for jobs, prioritize continuing education budget. Consider the net value: salary, continuing education money, and benefits. A higher hourly rate with minimal benefits, though initially appealing, may not be the best long-term decision. Take as many continuing education courses as you can. Continue to add to the amount of tools in your toolbox, which will allow you to build and tailor individualized treatment plans for all patients.  

You’ll Have Loans (Lots of Loans): 

Don’t sacrifice your quality of life for a high salary. Wait for the right fit with a company whose goals and values align with yours. In outpatient practice, be aware of block scheduling, overlapping scheduling, and time allotted for initial evaluations and follow up appointments. Know what you’re comfortable with, and don't sacrifice your ability to develop a genuine relationship with each patient. 

Start planning for the future now. The difference between beginning investments now, and three months from now can be the difference in thousands of dollars.  Prepay whenever possible.  If you can afford it, pay more than your required monthly payment, in order to lower the amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.  

You’ll Question Your Decisions, We All Do: 

Don’t get burnt out. Every new grad wants to be an all-star right out of the gate.  Avoid allowing yourself to be overworked and overloaded. Set goals for your career, and take small, steady steps toward achieving them. You will experience an immense amount of personal and professional growth over your first years of practice. No matter how smart and wonderful you are, being a physical therapist is forever a process of learning how to be most effective for each individual patient.

Tired of giving your patients home exercise printouts? Healigo is a Boston-based technology company that helps patients stay on track with their rehabilitation using a mobile app while providing physical therapists actionable data to guide recovery. Click here for more information!