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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Are you a Bad PT?

Published March 29, 2010 2:04 PM by Jon Bassett
I have a friend who's a PT. But she's not real rah-rah about it. She works per-diem at a nursing home a few days a week. She enjoys her work and her patients, and feels she makes a difference in their lives, but that's basically where it ends. I'd be hard-pressed to say she's "passionate" about physical therapy--in fact, it was months after meeting her that I even knew what she did for a living.

Talking to her recently got me thinking: Is this person a "bad" PT?

After all, she doesn't do much journal reading. She's not an APTA member and doesn't plan to be. Never attended a meeting or got involved with any professional initiatives. She doesn't want a DPT. She's not out there beating the PT drum, touting the benefits of therapy for painful conditions and movement restrictions to anyone who will listen.

In short, she doesn't do any of the things industry leaders implore physical therapists to do, if PT is going to prosper as a profession.

She's just a mom and a wife who also happens to be a PT, and that's the way it is.

Anyone who attends PT conferences regularly can come away with the impression that any PT that's not in a perpetual state of information-seeking and PT promotion constitutes a drain on the profession. Is this accurate? Where does the distinction lie between the rank-and-file staff therapist, and the autonomous DPT who views himself on equal footing with physicians?

Where do you place yourself?

posted by Jon Bassett


Wow - "just a mom and a wife who happens to be a PT" ..I have to ask: Did you friend read this post, and if she did, is she still you friend?

Can a therapist be a "good PT" by being good to her patients, by obtaining effective outcomes and by providing quality care without attending an APTA event? I would say yes.

Because this woman is not out there making her career choice her primary defining role to the world does not, in my opinion, make her a bad PT.  It's attitudes like the one in the last line of the post ("distinction lie between the rank-and-file staff therapist, and the autonomous DPT who views himself on equal footing with physicians") that I think are divisive and destructive to our profession as a whole.

Sharon, PT April 22, 2010 9:58 AM

I was about to comment on this post the other day when my duties as "just a mom and wife" took me away.

Dean already stole my thunder about the DPT being on equal footing with a doctor.  I don't want that delusional DPT anywhere near me or any of my family or friends.  I respect those who continue their education.  I have no respect for the exalted opinion that education has bred in many.

I had the grades to go to med school, and I chose not to pursue that route because I knew I couldn't be a good doctor and a good mom/wife.  Perhaps some can, but with my personality, I knew I couldn't.  The flexibility of the PT profession allowed me to be a good PT, wife, and mother.  PT was an integral part of who I was, but it never defined me.  

I didn't hesitate to correct a misconception of therapy, but I didn't go around spouting PT all the time.  After fulfilling my obligatory place on their role after graduation, I ceased to be an APTA member - for reasons similar to what Dean has already mentioned.  I felt guilty about not doing my professional duty, so took another look at the professional organization after several years of being away.  I got involved at the local level.  After one year, my guilt was assuaged.  I didn't pay my dues again.

You didn't say your friend doesn't read journals, you said she doesn't do "much" journal reading.  That is a subjective term.  Who defines "much"?

You also didn't say whether or not she went to continuing education.  You said she didn't attend APTA meetings or get involved on that level.  I've been to organization meetings - I didn't learn anything that made me a better PT - just a better minion.  The 30 minute educational portions were no more or less educational that the inservices I attended at my place of employment.  

An assumption Christie makes in her comment is at the heart of the matter.  She read your post and assumed if your friend wasn't doing the APTA thing, then she also wasn't continuing her knowledge.  Christie said, "The next question may be: "If she isn't going to conferences, earning a DPT, a member of the APTA, is she at least willing to learn from her co-workers who are?""  She added in not going to never said that.  

There is a contingent out there who equates APTA membership and DPT status to the gold measure for a learning, growing PT.  It isn't.  Willingness to learn and professional growth are not measured by APTA and DPT status.  

A final note:  My hat's off to you - Jon Bassett - for crafting this post.  Well done.

Janey Goude April 1, 2010 11:29 AM

"the autonomous DPT who views himself on equal footing with physicians" has got to be one of the most arrogant statements I've heard in a very long time. It's no wonder that doctors have a hard time showing us respect when statements like that show them none.

Ideas like this are why I make a conscious choice to not join the APTA! If one assumes that those PTs who don't join are simply lazy and uninterested, they are mistaken. I know a few PTs who feel that the APTA does not represent their needs and that the APTA vision for 2020 is full of cataracts.

As someone who attends continuing education courses, reads relevant journals, uses electronic databases to research issues of concern to me and my patients, and who is known primarily as a sailor, not a PT, to those outside the profession, I can honestly say "Thanks, but no thanks." I do not wish to be a part of that fraternity.

Dean Metz March 31, 2010 2:14 PM

Well, she certainly isn't helping our profession, that's for sure.  The next question may be: "If she isn't going to conferences, earning a DPT, a member of the APTA, is she at least willing to learn from her co-workers who are?"  Let's hope that she first has co-workers who are doing this.  Otherwise, this place is stagnating fast.  If she does and is, then at least her clients are receiving that benefit.  She's obviously a woman with different priorities in life...her family.  Does this make her a bad person...certainly not...a bad PT...maybe.  

I see complacency all around me.  It's a disease in our profession.  Maybe it's just me, but I think PT tends to attract relatively intelligent people, but people who want to be "done with it." Our field lacks many people who envision education beyond PT school.  I used to be one myself. I was willing to go to school, work my butt off for a couple years, and then wanted to do nothing but collect money.  I've certainly seen the errors of my ways.  

I think there are many cultural issues that influence this.  Too many to discuss in this post.  My only remaining question is now that PT is usually a DPT, will this further propagate these issues or lessen it?  

Christie ,, March 30, 2010 8:50 AM

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