October is National Physical Therapy Month. To celebrate, we are sharing the stories of our physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. Today’s entry is written by Mike Sandman. He writes about his journey from traveling musician to working daily to enhance the life of every person he serves.
The meeting stories of our lives are important, whether they are how you met your spouse or your first day with a childhood pet. This is my meeting story with Physical Therapy.
I was on the rebound from another Job, which seems now more like a youthful fling. After two years on the road as a musician, I decided to settle down in my hometown and find a day job I could grow up with. I returned to the hospital where I had worked as a college student and took a job as an orderly. The job allowed me to work closely with doctors, nurses, radiology techs and other health care professionals in surgery, emergency room and throughout the hospital. They all had great skills that helped heal and return their patients home and I was proud to be part of that work. Then I started to notice another group of people helping to achieve that goal of healing and returning patients to the community: the therapy team and their skills became my infatuation.
As I got to know the therapists I found they had a different relationship with the patients. The therapist, like all healthcare workers, needed to build a trust relationship with the patients. All of us in healthcare are asking patients to trust their bodies to our knowledge, skills and judgment. This trust is earned by healthcare workers every day. In addition to the high level of trust, I observed the therapists developing another level of partnership because, in order to be successful, the patient had to work harder than the therapist. This was a deeper commitment from the patient than we needed in ER or OR, and seeing the therapists use all of their professional and person skills to achieve that trust and commitment inspired me to be more like them and eventually to be one of them.
From the first day of PT school I started building that knowledge and skills base which empowered me to build that special therapeutic relationship of partnership. Those skills continue to expand to this day. I am frequently reminded when I am working with a patient with a particularly challenging problem, that my success and their success in therapy depends on a trust and teamwork between the two of us. From the first time I met the profession of physical therapy to now, that combination of challenges in knowledge, skills and team building with patients has kept the relationship fresh, exciting and fulfilling for forty years.