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Life of a PTA

Why Are You a Therapist?

Published March 10, 2014 5:24 PM by Allison Young

A few days ago, I was preparing a patient for a slide-board transfer from the edge of her bed to the wheelchair. As she was a max-assist with two therapists for this transfer up until this point, we were attempting to progress to a one-person assist and increase her self-initiation. As I reached around her torso and gripped firmly onto the gait belt, she blurted quite incredulously, "How did you ever decide this is the line of work you wanted to do?"

I was so caught off-guard and amused by her question (as well as the timing), I had to abort the transfer attempt to chuckle. Without much of a pause, I simply answered, "I like to help people -- and this job is really rewarding." I explained to her that I was originally going to focus on sports medicine physical therapy until I volunteered in a skilled nursing facility for my observation hours and completely fell in love with working in this setting.

We completed the transfer with a beautiful minimal assist, which surprised us both considering her max-assist level just a day or two ago. I have no doubt she was more comfortable and trusting of my abilities after our impromptu conversation (as I'm sure she had her doubts since she has about 200 pounds on me and I'm a towering 5-foot-1 in my clogs).

Her question and my immediate response couldn't have come at a more pivotal time. I've been frustrated and disgruntled at work recently (if you read this blog on a regular basis, you've probably picked up on this vibe). As therapists, we have more than a few tough days. Between communication breakdowns with management, nursing and unmotivated patients, some days make me question whether I should make a major career change.

Ultimately, the rewards I gain from my job as a PTA far outweigh the lows. Watching patients go from barely being able to perform an ankle pump in supine to scaling stairs with a single-point cane, is frankly just awesome to witness. I realize now the stresses will never really go away and the focus should always remain on the most important factor of this job -- the patients and their goals. Sometimes those reminders come when you least expect and need to hear them the most.

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