I can honestly say that after two weeks out in my full time clinic, I know that I am in the right place – the right career at least.
I am at an outpatient orthopedic clinic right down the street from my school. Basically, we see a lot of post-operative patients, patients with generalized pain, degenerative pathologies, and sports-related injuries. My CI went to the same undergraduate as I did which made an instant bond between us when we discovered that. We get along great and all the other PTs there are young and so much fun. I am constantly laughing at the conversations we have while treating patients. They all have been so welcoming to me and when my CI has a cancellation or anything, they are more than willing to let me tag along and watch them do an evaluation or treatment. They are all super laid back and I feel comfortable asking them anything I am curious about.
I have worked my way up to working with 5 patients a day out of my CI’s schedule. I feel so much more comfortable with what I am doing as I am entering my third week today. I am more confident in my responses to patient’s questions and feel that although I am a student, the patient’s still respect me which is something I was definitely a little concerned about. The patient’s that I am given are the more simple cases: the knee replacements, ACL repairs, frozen shoulders or fractures; but we are going to start to integrate more complex patients in to my schedule as I continue to get more comfortable.
As an experience, I know this is going to be a great one this summer. However, the more I think about it, I don’t think orthopedics is for me. While I enjoy the atmosphere, it’s extremely monotonous and I feel like I’m doing the same thing every day. I will probably end up working orthopedics because it’s a great environment for a new grad to get experience while having the peer support around you of the other physical therapists. Going in to school, I was absolutely all about ortho and knew that’s what I wanted to do. But now that I’ve been through other types of clinics, I am keeping a much more open mind. Especially since I liked the hospital setting so much. Next semester we learn neuro rehab and pediatrics. I’m super interested in neuro so I’m looking forward to being able to experience more of that side of PT.
One thing that I’ve learned in my first two weeks is this: patient’s are hilarious. They have no filter, and they literally ask you the most ridiculous questions. A few examples: one patient with a fracture (that is healed at this point), asked us if it would have been easier to get an amputation. Another patient – dead serious – asked if we could give her a Kim K. booty so that she would bounce the next time she fell on her tailbone. Um, what?!? One thing is for sure, I need to work on keeping a straight face when people ask these types of questions or make these statements.
I’ve also learned this: people are so, so, appreciative of us. They may curse us when we make them hurt and hate us when we make their exercises harder – but they truly appreciate the work that they do. We are just doing our job, but we are making these people’s lives better – decreasing pain that they may have had for years, working them back to full strength after surgeries, finding biomechanical problems that the doctors never quite pick up on. They shower us with food and coffee and sweets to show their appreciation. “A small token for the impact you have made in my life” – they say. A few classmates who are working in nursing facilities and hospitals have reported back to the rest of us with stories that make me so happy we do what we do and they make me realize that I know I am in the right profession.