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5 years: How did I get here?

Posted: Oct 8, 2018

When I first started as a therapist I was, like most new graduates, especially confident with the skills that I had learned from my recent CIs.  I replicated CIs that I had spent an extended amount of time with, specifically those who specialized in a certain clinical skill. At my last clinical prior to graduation my CI specialized in assessing gait, LE/foot mechanics and prescribing appropriate footwear to patients.  Because of this, I started my career with a deep knowledge and understanding of one type of patient but it hindered my ability to clearly see who and what kind of therapist I wanted to become. I struggled with areas and skills that didn’t have anything to do with athletics, but were common like LBP, chronic shoulder tendinitis, cervical radiculopathies and so on. When I first began clinical practice I recall thinking that I needed to know everything and be competent in all areas to adequately treat in the outpatient setting. This caused me to spread myself too thin, taking on pediatrics, neuro, orthopedics, sports and just general practice. Thus leaving me very little guidance or direction as to the type of continuing education I should explore.

I thought I wanted to solely learn about running, but realized that wouldn’t make me a well-rounded therapist and left me halting the breaks with taking classes.  This is why for the first year, I didn’t attend any con-ed. It wasn’t until I moved to a new clinic where it was required, encouraged and time/money was allotted that I really started to take it seriously.  I realized when I got to that clinic that a lot of people there had taken some heavy advanced course work and it was driving there current practice. My former employer was not as supportive of having a career as a well-rounded PT but more as a specialist in gait and running athletes.  Therefore, I knew I needed something else. I decided to take chain reaction because knowing the human body as a chain was always something that I wanted to understand at a greater depth.

After taking my first con-ed course I was blown away with the knowledge and experience in the room and couldn’t believe how just one weekend course could already change my practice and way of thinking!  I realized then and there how important con-ed is, as it gets you out of the monotony of your everyday treatments and adds a fire to your career. This was just the starting point for me and I ended up going through GIFT (Gray Institute of Functional Training). I wanted to start my career on a large base of knowledge and then close in on more specific skills later.  This ended up being an excellent choice as it did provide me a base knowledge and foundation for knowing the type of therapist I wanted to become. After completing GIFT it was like a snowball effect on taking other courses, the ball was rolling and I wanted to keep becoming a better therapist.

I based a lot of my other courses on things that interested me, but also things that I had witnessed other therapists use in the clinic and have great results.  For me specifically this was McKenzie. It was one of the courses I had seen others attend and use in the clinic with fast and good results. I also felt that it aligned really well with my foundation from GIFT and wouldn’t oppose the values I learned from GIFT.  I also took a course in dry needling, as I felt it was important as a PT to keep up with the advancements of the practice and again I had seen the success it was creating in my fellow PTs.

Taking these courses have really driven my current practice.  GIFT gave me the extra foundational knowledge and the other courses have given me more tools to use in my practice.  The more tools you have, the less stuck you’ll get when something doesn’t work out. If you are solely bought into only one method of treatment, then the second a patient throws you for a loop you will get stuck.  Not everyone fits into every treatment method. I currently treat with functional exercises, with a focus on McKenzie principles for back and neck pain, and a collection of different manual therapy skills.

If I could do it all over, I’m not sure how much I would change.  I actually think it was helpful to have a year that I didn’t do any continuing education so I could really learn where my gaps in knowledge were and what interested me.  Once you figure out what type of therapist you want to become, it will help you to narrow in on the courses to take. I feel it was very beneficial to take a very broad course first and then narrow in on other courses later on.   Don’t feel like you have to take every course and know everything. You’ll be a good therapist if you attempt to become master of all, but if you want to be great, narrow in on your strengths and build on it. Also, don’t forgot when you start taking courses that you were successful even before that course.  Sometimes, continuing education can leave you feeling like you know nothing, but never forget who you are and what gave you success even before that course.