Since I have been in PT school I have felt overwhelming pressure to have a long-term plan. Where will I be? What will I be doing? Who will I be working for? We are constantly reminded that most students enter PT school with a specific setting in mind and end up choosing a different area all together. They tell us this so we keep an open mind and don’t feel too much pressure to make a decision right away. But this scares me! To be accepted into PT school we all must have some amount of “type A” within us, which means we like a plan. Without a set direction how am I supposed to plan for the next few years!?
What if the decision wasn’t orthopedics or pediatrics? Inpatient or outpatient? At this year’s National Student Conclave I discovered Global Health. It opened my eyes to a whole different way of looking at my future. Each class, clinical placement and job opportunity provides us with the tools to be more than just an Ortho PT or an Acute PT. When caring for people who do not usually have access, the therapist becomes a “jack of all trades” using the skills they learned in all clinical settings. For me, this opportunity sparked an excitement that choosing between orthopedics and pediatrics did not. One day, you may be a neuro, hand and pediatric therapist all in one! We don’t have to pick!
Initially, this was a huge relief, but I quickly realized that this means I have to be knowledgeable in everything. Cue rise in blood pressure.
This is not just true in global health; clinical skills overlap in all settings. As doctorate level physical therapists that see direct access patients, we are held to a higher standard than ever before. Outpatient therapists are seeing more and more complex conditions where they will have to apply knowledge from different settings.
By the time I graduate, the goal is to not become hypertensive when deciding what setting to work in or when treating a patient outside of my expertise. Physical therapy is a profession of options and opportunities. We can have it all! Our DPT degrees lay the foundation of knowledge and skills to succeed in treating all people, not just what our clinical setting treats.