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Life of a PTA

Reassess the Goal

Published June 6, 2014 3:01 PM by Allison Young

Last weekend I ran my second half-marathon. In hindsight, I'm pleased with my performance, having finished 4 minutes faster than last year's half. When I signed up for the run this year, however, I originally set the lofty goal of running the full marathon. I gave myself four months to train and established a week-by-week running regime to reach my goal. The first two months went well -- I didn't miss a training run and was easily increasing the mileage. Then life happened. Between unexpectedly switching jobs and a hard-hitting flu bug sweeping through the household, somewhere between week 8 or 10, the plan jumped the tracks.

When I came to terms with the fact that I would have to "downgrade" to running the half-marathon vs. the full, I was initially disappointed in myself. It was then I realized there are many times in the physical therapy setting when I have to recommend that a patient downgrades a short- or long-term goal. Despite the concerted efforts of the patient, the primary PT and myself, sometimes reaching a particular functional goal becomes unrealistic. If a patient has to return to ambulating with a front-wheeled walker versus the four-wheeled rolling walker due to increased weakness as a result of a health decline -- that's simply the more realistic and safer choice.

I'll explain to the patient that goals are established in the plan of care by the PT to reach his highest function and independence. The goals are assessed weekly and adjusted accordingly. There are even times when patients far surpass a short-term goal and surprise everyone on their rehab team, including themselves. Whichever the outcome, the only way to "fail" is to give up and not participate entirely. Perhaps a gait goal was never fully met and maybe I'll never run a full marathon -- but when the effort was made and the goal modified and reached, people should not be disappointed in themselves.

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