So, this article was supposed to be about investing. When I sat down to write it, I immediately realized that I know absolutely nothing about investing. My advice to those of you interested in investing would be to find a good financial advisor and go from there. PTs are good at PT. Let me stick to what I know.
That in mind, I decided to put a spin on this concept of investing and perhaps rock the boat a little bit. What follows is my take on investing, as it relates to you as a physical therapist.
Take Continuing Education
I can’t begin to express how strongly I feel about this topic. So much so that it will likely become it’s own piece in the future. So stay tuned. For now, suffice to say that if you think that you can treat patients and get by just using what you learned in school, you’re going to find yourself with patients that take forever to get better, and complicated cases that simply never get better. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, school prepares you to be safe. It lays the foundation and sets the rules. It is up to you to continue your education and your learning so that you can build upon that foundation and then creatively break the rules that no longer apply.
While earning the title Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is no easy feat; in all honesty, most people outside of the profession have no idea what it means or what we even do. I’d go so far as to say that many new grads (and not-so-new grads) don’t fully understand the far-reaching capabilities of a physical therapist. That in mind, it’s important that we don’t simply rely on those three letters to inform our decisions, shape our treatments, and market ourselves to the public. We must go out and become the practitioners that we want to be.
Continuing education opens doors to a world of treatment options that simply cannot be taught during school. My main piece of advice regarding taking courses would be to not be put off by the cost. It’s an investment in yourself, and that is the best investment you can make. It can be frustrating when you see that the majority of the courses you wish to take are (what feels like) a million dollars or don’t offer CEUs, but they are worth it. Expanding and reorganizing your toolbox is a continuous process that pays off handsomely in the end. The best part; your patient outcomes will go through the roof!
While I wouldn’t advise you to go to your first job interview and lead off by asking how much vacation time you get, it is important that you take time away from work to enjoy life and decompress. One of the best parts about being a physical therapist is the human connection. One of the worst parts about being a physical therapist is the human connection.
As a PT, you may find that you take on the stress of your patients. You want them to get better and you are truly invested in their well-being. Multiply this by the 16+ patients you see a day, and suddenly you may find yourself very emotionally drained. The need to recharge those batteries is a very real thing. Find that balance and don’t be afraid to take a vacation. Burn the candle at both ends for long enough, and sooner or later that flame goes out entirely.
Take Care of Yourself
Practice what you preach, people! I fell victim to this my first year out of school. Shortly after, while attempting not to die while running the slowest mile of my life, I made a promise to myself that I would never let work come before my health ever again. It’s way too easy to get caught up in the note writing, the alternating schedule, the sheer fatigue from being on your feet all day and treating patients and just let your exercise routine fall to the wayside. Lunch-breaks become times to escape the chaos of the clinic, nights becomes time to simply shut off your brain and do nothing, and suddenly you’re eating pizza and chips for lunch and dinner, and pop-tarts are your new best friend in the morning. You must make your health a priority. Not just because people don’t want to take health advice from
Lunch-breaks become times to escape the chaos of the clinic, nights becomes time to simply shut off your brain and do nothing, and suddenly you’re eating pizza and chips for lunch and dinner, and pop-tarts are your new best friend in the morning. You must make your health a priority. Not just because people don’t want to take health advice from an unhealthy individual, but because if you continue on that path, sooner or later you physically won’t be able to give out any advice.
As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty glass.” Find yourself not getting enough sleep, not eating right, and not staying active, and that glass is going to become empty real quick. Your health is just as important as your patients’ health. Don’t forget that.
Find Value in Yourself Outside of Patient Outcomes
One of the things that I’ve witnessed with new grads is falling victim to self-worth being dictated by patient outcomes. Yes, of course you want your patients to get better, but not all of your patients will get better. Believe it or not, some people actually don’t want to get better. It’s just a fact. And you need to be ok with that. When you start allowing your confidence and self-worth to be dictated by your work, you have placed your happiness in the hands of someone else. Bad days become that much worse, and the swing from high to low can quickly become unmanageable. It’s a slippery slope that is best avoided from the start.
This concept of self-worth ties into my previous points, as many of us draw our confidence from our physical abilities, our hobbies, or our smarts. If you’re not taking continuing education, if you’re not taking care of yourself, if you’re not finding that work-life balance, then suddenly you’ve got nothing to fall back on, and work becomes your only measure of success.
You must BRING confidence TO your work, not GET confidence FROM your work.
Despite that fact that you spend so many hours a week at your job, it is only one part of your life. Make sure that you don’t let it dictate your happiness.
Physical therapy tends to attract and altruistic personality type that simply wants to help people out and see their patients get better. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. All that I ask is that you take the airplane safety approach to things, and put your air-mask on before helping others. Consider it an investment in yourself.