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Working During PT School: The Why and How

by Jose Martinez

If you've opened this article, it's most likely due to one of two reasons:

  1. You've just gotten into a PT program, and you're currently wondering whether it's a wise choice to keep working through school.
  2. You're already in grad school, and you're in need of a little extra cash.

Keep in mind that you will run into plenty of reasons as to why you should not pursue or continue a job while in any PT program. The possible reasons presented by your professors and others both in and out of the field are simple and pretty obvious. Surely, the same reasons have crossed your minds at some point and can easily be grouped into two big ones: You will have less time to dedicate to your academic performance, and you will be voluntarily adding stress to an already strenuous program. However, accepting or retaining a part-time job through physical therapy school can be a great choice.

There are 3 major benefits associated with getting a part-time gig through PT school.

1. People Skills

If you're able to score a customer service job early on, those countless hours spent dealing with those demanding customers will eventually pay off. Being able to handle these situations will better prepare you for handling patients in the future.

2. Time Management

Having a job while going to school improves your task efficiency and time management skills. I get it. It sucks. The thought of being at work on a Friday night while your friends and family are going to dinner is undesirable. However, when you have that exam in three days you need to study for, work two out of the next three days and have to make time to attend a birthday dinner that night, you're forced to get pretty good at this time management stuff — a skill that will definitely be of utmost importance as you learn to juggle your career, family, social life and sanity.

3. Outlook/Mentality

Simply put, it changes the way you look at things. If you've completed over 4 years of college, I'm sure you've met your fair share of individuals who haven't worked a day in their lives. This isn't a knock on them whatsoever: I have many classmates who fall into this category, are extremely hardworking and will go on to have successful careers. However, having to work for what is yours certainly changes your outlook on life and puts you in a position to handle your finances at an early age.

But what kind of job?

Coming into my first year of PT school I quit my part-time job because my professors advised against retaining one. Following my first semester I realized that simply relying on reading textbooks and practicing hands-on techniques in lab wasn't going to fully prepare me for life after graduation. Those skills will allow us to become great technicians in our profession; however, consistently working with clients will allow us to become better educators.

Upon graduating as a physical therapist we have the clinical skills to treat and have an impact on most of the patients we encounter. Despite that, the most important skill health professionals lack coming out of school is the ability to break down information to the level of the patient (no, the person in front of you has no idea what the difference between type 1 and type 2 muscle fibers are).

We have the ability to actually address the root of the problem and promote long-term changes with our patients — real changes that can positively affect them every single day for the rest of their lives. After all, as therapists we sometimes spend more time with patients than they do with their own family. Consistently having others buy into our way of thinking is no easy task and because of this it is crucial that we, as students, continue to work on mastering this skill.

Ideally, your job through DPT school can assist in improving some of the skills needed for your future career. If you're entering your first year in a Doctor of Physical Therapy program, go to a well-respected local gym and apply to be a personal trainer where you can refine your skills working one on one with clients, for example. Even if that’s not what you want to do, you can surely find at least one skill in any job that will better prepare you for life after school.

So before you quickly dismiss the thought of working through that first year of grad-school, take a minute to weigh out the potential benefits that can come from accepting that part-time job.


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