You may be familiar with the cliche “get your foot in the door.” But how does one wedge a door open that appears to be locked shut? Pelvic health physical therapy is a niche specialty that is in high demand. However, at times pelvic health appears to be an impenetrable profession (no pun intended). Not to worry though, there are numerous ways to enter the field of pelvic floor PT as a student and as a professional. Your most vital tool is a resume that portrays devotion to the field.
Shadow professionals in the field
As with any other profession, it is important for an aspiring pelvic physical therapist’s resume to portray a vested interest in the field. Devotion to pelvic health can be demonstrated in numerous ways. As a student or as a professional, you can shadow local pelvic health physical therapists, urologists, gynecologists, and urogynecologists. Exposure to varied sections of practice within a specialization illustrates maturity and shows an employer that the candidate is committed.
Shadowing professionals also provides a point of conversation for interviewers when you have no professional experience. The answer to “what got you interested in pelvic health?” can oftentimes be answered through a fun anecdote pertaining to one of your clinical observations.
When I am asked this question, I often reference the first time I changed a Foley catheter. The patient was in an ornery mood and audibly not thrilled by the notion of a physical therapy student changing his catheter. The patient begrudgingly agreed to be a chalkboard from which I would learn how to replace a catheter. As I removed the catheter, a small, but noticeable amount of urine leaked out onto my shoes. The patient wittingly replied, “better to be pissed off than to be pissed on.” It took every ounce of control for me not to laugh at such a retort.
Don't say no
When I was growing up, my parents hounded me to use the word “no” in various situations (particularly when it came to mischievous or delinquent activities). While I never completely mastered the word “no,” I did eventually grasp that the use of such a powerful word is situational.
When breaking into pelvic floor PT, improper utilization of the word “no” may lead to missed opportunities. In your time shadowing various pelvic healthcare professionals, the chance to perform some aspect of an examination or treatment may arise. At the time of opportunity for practical growth, it is in your best interest to ditch “no” from your arsenal of vocabulary words.
In my aforementioned Foley catheter story, the urologist first requested that I conduct the change while his patient was in the room. I was caught off guard. Expressing discomfort with my circumstance was the easy way out of that situation, but instead, I maintained composure and followed my mentor’s instructions. As a result, I gained additional practical experience.
Take a pelvic health PT class
Whether you are a student or a professional, the APTA Section on Women’s Health and Herman & Wallace both offer courses in the field of pelvic health. Certification from either of the designated companies on your resume renders confidence to employers that a prospective candidate has the scholastic knowledge necessary to work with and educate patients. From the standpoint of a student applying to competitive pelvic health clinical internships, taking either course will set you apart from other applicants.
The courses are also great for networking. I have participated in a handful of pelvic health courses. By the end of each, I walked away with new professional acquaintances that I can call upon when seeking advice.
Create your own opportunities
There was a time when I approached what I believed to be an impasse entering the pelvic health world professionally. I called upon one of the acquaintances I made when networking at a pelvic health course and she suggested ways that I could create my own educational opportunities. I then started to reach out to programs in unconventional ways.
Personalized business letters can be used to contact companies with pelvic health programs. The letter can act as both a tool to market yourself and as a way to open up shadowing opportunities. You may be familiar with the frustration of navigating automated telephone systems that larger companies are so fond of. The automated systems tend to avert callers from speaking with the person they are trying to get in touch with. However, a business letter sent via US Postal Service circumvents the automated gate keeper and lands directly in the hands of the individual you are seeking.
Open the door to pelvic floor PT
Keep an open mind to all situations surrounding pelvic health. Getting experience and marketing yourself are paramount when building a resume that exhibits devotion to a specific trade. Stay keen and when the time comes, be ready to jam your emblematic foot in the door to the pelvic floor. It does not readily open to many.