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3 Reasons to Pursue Teaching as a Physical Therapist

by Clifford Civil


As a PT student, I never thought that I'd be interested in teaching. I remember having academia as an after-thought months prior to my graduation. However, things change and such is life. One week prior to commencement, I was approached by the chairperson of my school's DPT program. She asked if I would be interested in co-teaching a palpation lab for the incoming freshmen of the program. I thought it over and we came to an agreement that I would begin immediately following the NPTE. Little did I know that this single experience would spark an unforeseen interest in teaching as a physical therapist. The experience exposed me to the fulfillment of passing on my knowledge. It also benefitted me professionally. Here are 3 benefits of exploring opportunities teaching as a physical therapist.

"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself." -Albert Einstein

Constant Review

Teaching as a novice physical therapist requires you to maintain the student mindset; you must review, review, and review more. Your own success, and that of your students, is contingent upon your knowledge of the given topic. As a new full-time practitioner, it's worthwhile to periodically review material, since the transition from student to professional is often big leap. As a professional therapist, you will be reviewing topics from a new perspective, and with a new appreciation. As a clinician expands his/her clinical expertise, there is a growing body of lecture material available captivate the learner. Moreover, it allows you to solidify knowledge of a multitude of topics, including those that may not have been your strengths during PT school. Teaching affords continued practice, and we all know that practice makes perfect!

"Don't practice until you get it right; practice until you can't get it wrong."

Physical Therapists = Educators

Pedagogy doesn't solely refer to employees of the Department of Education. All physical therapists are teachers in their own right. We are educators. We are educators of pathology, postural alignment, movement quality and how all of those things relate to overall health. We are educators of corrective exercises, corrective posture, and corrective lifestyle changes for convalescence. We are constantly instructing patients, support personnel, and sometimes even colleagues. The pedagogical seed is embedded within us already. The next progression would be to nurture and develop it.

Uplifting The Art of Physical Therapy

This is the most important benefit for me. Teaching is my way of giving back to the field. Sharing treatment tools, innovative techniques, and research buzz all help to uplift our profession. Students revere you, colleagues acknowledge you, and patients admire you. As a proud PT and APTA member, I continuously try my hardest to magnify the field whenever I'm engaged in dialogue, written or verbal. Considering the various restorative methods that physical therapy can provide to patients, I make sincere efforts to help raise the level of awareness of the health community at large. Physical therapy practice has progressed throughout the recent years and continues to grow every day. To continue this marvelous growth and exceed all expectations, we must undoubtedly prioritize personal growth. Growth occurs rapidly with an incessant desire to learn. By learning, one can teach; more importantly, by teaching one can learn.

Create Your Opportunities

As a recent grad, opportunities for teaching as a physical therapist were not exactly abundant. After my first exposure as a TA in the palpation lab, I tried vehemently to land an adjunct teaching position. I strategically sought teaching opportunities at my alma mater, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, to work toward my goal, but for awhile, that seemed ineffective. I sent emails, met with faculty, and volunteered continuously in classes. Nonetheless, after 1 year of full-time employment as a PT, and simultaneous full-time persistence as an eager "wannabe teacher", I was finally granted another opportunity to step back into the classroom. Never undervalue the power of persistence.

I have been granted the pleasure of hosting lectures and labs in different orthopedic courses and, as of September 2015, I became a clinical instructor. I urge you to develop an insatiable hunger for advancement.

Teaching has been very influential in my development as a therapist and a professional thus far. It keeps me on point, and is now part of my identity. In addition, teaching has given me the opportunity to develop relationships and connections with numerous therapists that have provided mentorship and guidance. I don't anticipate a full-time career as a faculty member at this point of my career but I look forward to the day that the opportunity arises to teach as a physical therapist . I wholeheartedly recommend new PTs to capitalize on any and all potential teaching ventures to help hone skills and bring further fulfillment to their careers.

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