Hey Matt- congrats on finally finishing your formal schooling and becoming a physiotherapist. You’re going to learn a lot in 2.5 years, and I’m here to fill you in on a few lessons so you avoid some big mistakes. I hope there are some new grads out there that can also read this and maybe relate a little.
- Don’t get too high and don’t get too low.– I get it buddy. You just won a bunch of awards upon graduating, you’re the best. But guess what? That national exam- you know the one that you’ve been preparing for night and day? The one that FINALLY seals the deal and makes you a real physio? The one that a lot of physiotherapists have told you is a complete joke? You fail. Your awards do not mean a thing. Get real comfortable with the word “intern” when you’re signing your name. But hey, dust yourself off, don’t get too low. This failure will be your first real battle with mental health but it does not have to be. You know what you know. OH and while we are at it- lots of your patients will tell you how awful their previous physiotherapist was. And sure, some of them sound pretty awful, but how many of your patients failed with you and have moved on to a new physio? What do you think the patient will say to their new physio?
- Look your patients in the eye and shut your mouth.– You were a teacher before you were a physiotherapist so I get it- you want to spread your message like a dandelion spreads its seed- but shut the hell up. Patients need to be listened to and FEEL listened to, especially the complex ones you’ve signed up to treat. It is more important for you to pause, tell them you understand, and let them vent. Sometimes your most successful appointments will be an hour of talking, and you won’t even lay a hand on the patient. I know what you’re going to say- I signed up to fix muscles and bones not to be a therapist. No Matt, you donkey, you signed up to help people, and you’re not going to help anyone if you don’t build a trusting relationship with your patients.
- Dinosaurs are out there- don’t let them make you angry.– Fresh out of school you will LOVE sending emails to other practitioners. You will love opening a dialogue with chiros, massage therapists, athletic therapists, doctors, and other physios. About four snippy replies later, you will think twice before corresponding. Older, more experienced practitioners will chop you down, and all but tell you you’re useless. DON’T LISTEN. Keep sending your emails and keep advocating for your patients and multi-disciplinary care- good practitioners are out there and they will value the correspondance. DON’T GET JADED. You will never change how people practice, you can only control your own practice- and mute their commercials when they come on.
- Don’t drink the punch, and certainly don’t chug it. – You know the practitioner you want to be and you think you know how to get there. Trust in the scientific evidence, and trust in your mentors but don’t buy one individual theory. There is no recipe for rehabilitation and there are many ways to make people better. If someone had the magic bullet, all physios would be using it already. Take courses you find interesting, not courses other people push you to. Always fall back on the evidence- take a few small pearls from every mentor you meet, but don’t emulate anyone. You’ll notice this letter doesn’t include anything on SFMA, FMS, Mulligan, Dry Needling, or Vestibular Therapy. Don’t get me wrong, these courses are important, but paying and attending those are the easy lessons- I don’t need to talk about them in a letter.
- Walk the walk.– How many times will you tell an athlete that their squat is poor? Tons. You’ve already told a bunch of patients that and you haven’t even passed your national exam. How long will it take a patient to call you out on your own squat pattern? 3 months. And you will know, as you perform your piss-poor squat, that you have forever lost that patient’s buy in. So if you’re going to tell people to be active and strong, you damn well better do it yourself. You don’t have to be the best, but you certainly need to be better than where you are.
- You won’t bat 1000.– This one is self explanatory but for some reason you really struggle with this, so let me make this really clear. SOME PEOPLE CAN NOT BE HELPED. Some people don’t even want to be helped. Some people won’t do the things that will so clearly help them. When you identify these people, have that extremely awkward conversation that they need to find assistance elsewhere. This conversation will lead to patients storming out, rude comments, and patient complaints, but it is the right thing to do. Stop taking these people’s money, explain to them why things aren’t working out, and rip off the band-aid.
- You are not your job– I get it, you worked hard for this and it’s shiny and new and, sure, about 0.3% prestigious. But school is out- improve your work/life balance. You do not need to reach your career goals in a year, or even five, but your loved ones will not always be around. Keep things in perspective and remember what’s important. Hug everyone.
Thanks for reading gang, hope everyone can take something away from this!