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.
When I arrive to work every day, I'm faced with a list of patients and expected therapeutic minutes to achieve for the day. What's missing on my list, you might ask? Scheduled therapy times. This translates to me knocking on many of my patients' doors in the a.m. to tentatively "schedule" my day of treatments. In many cases, because I've worked with the patients on a regular basis, I know which of them prefer morning to afternoon therapy sessions. This leads me to consult with the treating OT or COTA, as overlapping schedules have a tendency to happen frequently.
Most days, my schedule falls into place and I'm able to treat most of my patients. But more often than not, I'm chasing after a patient who left for the activity room or is being given a shower by nursing. If I sound frustrated, it's because I am. As a PTA in a SNF, every minute of my day will be measured toward my productivity. Not to mention the intense pressure to secure minutes to meet the patient's RUG level. A few years ago, our rehab department attempted an hourly schedule for each patient. Unfortunately, for the exception of one or two "appointments," the patients weren't able to keep their schedules due to fatigue, illness or simply to use the bathroom.
One of my colleagues mentioned how she enjoyed the "freedom" of having the flexibility of scheduling her patients vs. a "set time." Her point was that certain patients may require a 70-minute treatment session and others can only tolerate a 40-minute session. I see this advantage, but I would still prefer a more developed framework for my day. The responsibility would focus on patients' compliance with their agreed scheduled time compared to my open-ended question of, "What time would you like to do therapy today?"
If you work or have worked in a skilled nursing setting, are your patients given hourly therapy schedules? Is this system successful for you and your patient or do you find yourself constantly rescheduling throughout the day? I suspect the more staff supporting the patients' therapy schedule (nursing, CNAs, activity dept.), the chance of participation increases as well.
When a patient first arrives at a SNF from the hospital, typically he's in pain, ill and many times confused. Once the primary therapist completes the initial evaluation, that patient is quickly scheduled for PT seven days a week. The ideal situation would be to have the primary PT and a PTA treat the patient throughout the week, progressing treatments and meeting the goals of the established plan of care.
Unfortunately, this isn't a perfect world and skilled nursing PT can quickly "run off track" when it comes to providing an important component to a patient's recovery; continuity of care. As a full-time therapist, I'm lucky enough to be able to treat the same patients Monday through Friday with the exception of the primary PT's fifth visit, of course. However, there are weeks when my schedule of patients shifts daily due to a colleague calling in sick, PRN staffing, or the full-time weekend therapist's arrival (working Friday through Monday).
There are many times a patient, who I have treated for weeks, inexplicably "disappears" from my schedule only to resurface on another PTA's patient list. In such cases, my PTA colleague and I will make a "player trade" with someone off my schedule who that PTA has worked with before.
I've actually seen patients work with four or five different therapists in one week. This lack of continuity with just one main therapist is the least ideal for the patient. Despite the fact that every therapist who treats this patient is working toward the plan of care goals as set by the primary PT, it's difficult to progress when each therapist has a different there ex plan. The phrase "too many cooks in the kitchen" comes to mind during such a scenario.
Our rehab team has addressed this issue in the past and has made efforts to schedule patients with the same PT/PTA daily, but some patients do fall through the cracks when census is high and additional PRN staffing is necessary. When this is recognized, we advocate for the patient and keep the "player" on our roster.
My experience working in a skilled nursing facility has many advantages including autonomy as a therapist, a bustling team atmosphere and working with my favorite group: the tough-as-nails geriatric population. However, being a full-time PTA in a SNF has its drawbacks as well.
This could not be better illustrated than by the working day I just experienced. When I arrived to work today, one of my colleagues called in sick. Due to no available PRN staff, myself and the remaining therapists had an additional patient or two tacked onto our schedules. As well, the facility was experiencing a norovirus outbreak, thus therapy sessions were to be completed in patients' rooms under contact precautions. And then I found out one of my patients had passed away the previous evening.
This was just another Wednesday. Actually, that was a heavier day than my usual, but my work days have been running 8-10 hours long recently and often I find myself walking through my front door at 7 p.m. By Friday, I'm spent physically and emotionally, and ready for nothing but -- bed. My situation is a bit more unique living in the Great Northwest of this country, where daylight hours are amazingly short and the sun sets before 4 p.m. Having said that, I'll take the short days over the Northeast snowstorms any day.
As I was warned by many experienced therapists when I first began my career, "Eventually you'll burn out in a SNF!" I'm feeling the fatigue set in. So how am I trying to avoid this professional "burnout," you might ask? First, when I leave the SNF doors for the day, I also leave my job stress in my cubby. Somehow, I've found a way not to take it home with me. It helps that my life is just as frenetic at home as a single mom with two kids.
Secondly, I run. Correction, "jog fast," as a form of physical and emotional fitness (side note -- it took me nearly five years to enjoy running, but well worth the wait!). On many levels, exercise reduces my stress and cluttered thoughts. And finally, writing this blog has helped me "vent" my thoughts on the vast topic of my profession.
Trust me, I know I'm not unique. Whether you work in a SNF, hospital or private clinic, every one of us faces stress daily. What I want to know is how do you avoid the "burnout?" Are you able to find a balance between a stressful work environment and your sanity? Love to hear your thoughts.
Over the past few years, I've noticed my therapeutic style has changed subtly in some ways and drastically in other aspects. Due to self-preservation and the ever-present productivity demands, I've developed into a much more efficient therapist. From completing three full treatments in the morning without concurrent patients to communicating effectively with the nursing staff regarding pain medications for certain patients at specific times, my clinical timing skills have to be right on target for a successful day.
One major modification I've noticed since my first year as a PTA is my documentation style. When I first started working in the SNF a few years ago, my rehab director advised me to "keep it simple" when it came to my daily notes. Unfortunately, as a fresh new graduate of the PTA program, one-page SOAP notes were my reality and strength in school. I struggled with "editing" my clinical information, which all seemed "life-or-death" important to include. How will the next therapist know that the patient had a longer left-side loading response? Everything was relevant and everything went into those first notes.
Over time I realized my style, although informative, was mostly inconsequential and laborious for the rest of my team of therapists to read through. Most notably when trying to complete a progress note on a patient and coming across the page-long paragraph describing the gritty details of a THA patient's family visit, I knew I had to rein in the verbiage. I found I looked forward to reading the previous day's notes written by therapists who described the therapy session in a basic format with the important details clearly expressed -- without the flourish.
Gone are the days of my long narratives describing the therapeutic benefits of a toilet transfer. And with this change in my writing style, I find that I'm actually more efficient in my daily job performance. I have other colleagues who respectfully disagree with me and find the longer detailed descriptions of the session important to impart to the next therapist. However, I'll be keeping my notes short and relevant -- and save the extra time for the patients.
There has been much discussion recently about how much people earn. Whether comparison of PT/PTA salaries by region, such as on the ADVANCE website, or in politics regarding raising the minimum wage (don't worry, I'm not going to tackle that slippery slope), people want to know: What am I worth? It's timely though, as I've been perseverating over my hourly wage for more than a year now.
If you're unfamiliar with my history, here's a brief synopsis of my career so far -- I've been a full-time PTA for almost three years. Out of the "graduate gate," I was lucky enough to be employed in my preferred PT setting of a SNF, where I've stayed over these last few years.
When my 2-year "anniversary" came around last year, I felt I was in good position to ask for a pay increase as I'm hard-working, experienced (compared to when I started) and had the most seniority on the rehab staff; which is not much leverage, but it's something. When I finally sat down with my boss, the rehab manager, he was generous with his compliments on my therapeutic and interpersonal skills with the patients, but not so much with the inevitable raise request. As he informed me, the corporate policy of the facility only allows a 1% increase yearly.
I was deflated, to say the least. Without disclosing exactly how much I earn, let's just say 1% would not significantly change my paycheck amount. That was the exact moment the cold hard truth fell hard and unceremoniously in my lap. If I wanted to get a higher pay rate as a more experienced therapist, I would have to find a job somewhere else. If I stay, the new graduates coming out of the PTA program this spring will be earning the same paycheck. However, if I leave and find a different job elsewhere, I would be considered a more seasoned therapist and garner higher pay -- depending on the PT setting of course.
There are a few problems with this plan, however. In my county, we have an accredited PTA school producing 20 graduates a year, basically saturating the market in a 30-mile radius. PTA jobs are hard to come by and becoming scarcer each year. Secondly, I really enjoy working with my rehab team. Working alongside such considerate and talented therapists makes my job easier and less stressful. And finally, with the aforementioned lack of jobs in the area, I'm lucky to have mine, including benefits. As a single mother, I don't have a lot of wiggle room in my budget for a part-time job either.
So what does a quasi-new therapist do when she seeks a higher pay rate than that of an entry-level new grad? Well, as you can see -- I don't know. I'm currently reviewing my options on employment-finding websites without much success. Have you ever been in this professional situation and what did you do? Any feedback and advice will be appreciated here at the crossroads of "do I stay or do I go?"
As a new PTA grad a few years ago, I was lucky enough to be mentored by two very talented physical therapists. Both PTs, who happened to be married to each other, took this petrified/inexperienced PTA and taught me the essentials of SNF rehab and more. After two intense and lesson-filled years, this PT couple left our therapy team to work in an orthopedic outpatient clinic.
Since their departure, our rehab director has valiantly attempted to fill the large void left on our rehab team. Specifically, looking for a strong PT willing to take the helm of our caseload. To be clear, we have two other capable PTs on staff, both of whom work part-time during the week and are new "mommies" with vested interest to leave work as soon as possible. The bulk of our rehab staff is made up of full-time PTAs (including myself) with varying degrees of experience but more importantly, patient advocates and devoted team members.
Over the past year, myself and the rest of the PTA staff have watched talented contract physical therapists and disinterested PRN PTs come and go with a varying sense of disappointment or relief. Having such a cohesive PTA staff and having lost such strong PT leaders, we were optimistically hesitant to bring on a new "captain" to our team. We waited patiently and hoped for a viable candidate to apply for the job.
There's a reason skilled nursing has one of the highest pay rates for physical therapists. The days are long and the patients complicated, coupled with grueling documentation demands, not to mention the productivity expectations -- you will be deserving of your paycheck. A PT has to carefully consider the SNF setting compared to the laid-back outpatient clinic. I've personally been told by one PRN PT (at work) that she "hated" skilled nursing. As you can imagine, she wasn't tapped for many more shifts.
Just when we thought we'd have to get to know one more "traveling-contract" PT, we were informed a local therapist accepted the position. As luck would have it, this PT is refreshingly "normal." She works well with her patients and staff, possessing the most important attributes to being a successful SNF therapist: clinical skills, compassion and a keen sense of humor. Having only just started the job two weeks ago, my PTA colleagues and I are crossing our fingers that she'll rise to the challenge of being our fearless leader. For now she'll have our support in every way and we'll all hope for the best. To be continued...
Recently, a coworker of mine introduced me to a quote by Albert Einstein and how appropriately it relates to our patients in the SNF setting: Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
For that matter, this quote can be applied to most patients in any PT gym, whether outpatient clinic or post-op acute in the hospital. Most of my patients are "out-of-balance" -- literally, in many cases as a result of inactivity. As we all know, sedentary lifestyle and poor diet choices are causing an epidemic of younger, diabetic patients with co-morbidities, who never exercised a day in their life.
As a result, many of my patients look at me like I have two heads when I remind them that physical therapy sessions are every day during their stay at the skilled nursing facility. And yes, they are expected to participate each and every day. These are, of course, extremely low-level patients and we begin their treatment with the most basic of exercise: supine in bed. As my patients, I educate them on the importance of exercise not just with building strength and joint ROM, but in the psychological benefits including reducing stress and depression.
With no surprises, I've had the "just keep moving" talk with more than one patient on my schedule who refused to get out of bed due to fatigue/pain/drowsiness/nausea. It's frustrating for us both. They're very ill and feel terrible and I know they won't start getting stronger until they get out of their bed. Unfortunately, sometimes this standoff doesn't get resolved and the primary therapist has to give it his best attempt, which can ultimately result in the patient being removed from therapy for non-compliance.
Once in a while though, I'll be given a patient who starts therapy so weak he can barely walk in the parallel bars. Even through the pain and fatigue, he participates in therapy every day and begins to progress. Whether limited by obesity or an amputation, he gives 100% effort and surprises even himself with his accomplishments. In turn, these patients inspire me to not give up when this job gets insanely stressful or even when I set a personal goal for myself.
Please share how you motivate your patients to "keep moving," whether in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Better yet, how do you keep moving? Because I'm always open to tips, bicycle or not. ;)
When I started my journey into the physical therapy field, I found myself surrounded by eager SPTA students, like myself, beginning a new career. Nearly half the people in my graduating class from PTA school were over the age of 40. Many had children and degrees in other fields, but all of us were unwavering in our mutual goal to become PTAs.
I now find myself working with more than one of my fellow "older" students on our SNF rehab team. In fact, there is currently no therapist under the age of 35 in the PT department. Although I have worked with plenty of talented "20-something" therapists over the past few years, I find the most successful therapists in the SNF setting are those with a bit of life experience of their own.
One of these therapists is my colleague Fred, who I've talked about in a past blog or two. Fred is unapologetically 61 years old, white-haired and has been a PTA for as long as I have. In fact, we sat next to each other in class during the entire PTA program. Nicknamed "Dr. Fred" by the staff due to so many patients mistaking him for the facility MD, Fred has the ability to charm even the toughest patient.
Fred and all of my fellow therapists on the team bring a quality to their work that cannot be taught or earned in a degree; and that's wisdom (along with a large dose of compassion). Does this make Fred or I more successful at the job than the newly graduated 27-year-old DPT? Of course not! But years of working in vastly different jobs, raising kids and experiencing the effects of aging personally can only assist in being more relatable to our patients.
In three short months, I'll be turning 40 myself. A few years ago, I would've cringed at the thought of this milestone because (as I would tell myself) 40 is middle-age -- it's the beginning of being "Old." Today, I embrace the number. My age has only helped me become a kinder and more patient therapist. And if Fred is any indication, my future looks very promising. Did you enter PT as an "older" therapist or do you have a "Fred" type in your office or gym? Have you found age (whether old or young) to be a benefit in regard to patient relatability during treatments?
One day last summer as I was driving my kids to a practice/rehearsal/errand of some kind, I felt that I had two small pebbles rolling around in my mouth. Due to the fact that I was not eating anything or even chewing gum, I came to the frightening yet correct conclusion that, indeed, these were my teeth. Without totally panicking and causing a car accident, I played it cool and quickly found a tissue to "stow" the evidence for later examination -- preferably without my kids in the backseat. As it turned out, my bottom teeth had spontaneously chipped away without deliberate grinding or hard-candy chewing on my part.
Slightly startled, I contacted my dentist who I'd been ignoring for more than a year and scheduled an appointment immediately. I would come to find out this was the beginning of my very own "ortho" adventure... as in adult orthodontia. My dentist deemed my overbite (the very same one I've had for almost 40 years) "extreme." As a medical professional myself, I take that sort of terse description very seriously.
Concurrently at this time, I had been working with a patient who had all of her teeth pulled for an impending surgery to reduce the risk of systemic infection. Perhaps because of my own dental issues, I found this completely horrifying. Could it happen to me one day? Would I have to face the "golden years" of my life soaking my dentures in a cup each evening, only to have them accidentally thrown out by a CNA? Thus a few months later, with the dentist and orthodontist recommendation and threat of continued teeth disintegration -- I decided to wear braces... for the next two years.
So on a Monday morning before work last October, I had them applied. I will spare everyone the grueling details of those first few weeks. Let's just say, kids are tougher than they look (including my orthodontia-experienced, 13-year-old who laughed at me mercilessly). Let's just say, I had a sharp wire poking a hole into my cheek for a week and eating was something I found rather difficult to do in general.
Most interestingly, I found my patients completely ambivalent (compared to my sympathetic coworkers) or in a rare case, dismissive. One of my usual patients who happens to be profoundly hard of hearing, actually "dismissed" me from his room by waving his hand "bye-bye" when I came to get him for therapy. It was almost as if he was saying "get out of here kid, not right now." Without a doubt, I look younger with the braces. I'm already topping off at 5-feet-tall in my clogs, so it's not helping me look any more authoritative.
It's been a few months now and I'm happy to report I've adjusted to my braces. My patients seem to as well and rarely do even my new patients comment on them. No doubt it was my own perception and discomfort that initially caused a reaction. In any case, they're here to stay for a while and always give me a segue into a conversation on good oral health with patients. Or at least another reason to brush after lunch.
Six months ago I sat down with my boss, the rehab director of the SNF where I work, to formally "go over" my yearly performance review. Luckily there were no surprises or great disparities between my self-assessment regarding my work quality and that of my department head. There was however, the point of my lower-than-the-expectation productivity. This was no surprise to me as I have to calculate my percentage each and every end of the workday.
My excuses are many, ranging from the unbillable time "wrangling" with difficult patients to unfortunate computer crashes (which the IT department is consistently working on). I know for a fact that once I walk through the facility doors and clock in for the day, I'm working 100% toward my ultimate goal -- giving my patients a quality therapy session. Unfortunately, being passionate about your job doesn't always reflect a stellar productivity percentage.
In our facility, every staff member whether a housekeeper or MD is expected to answer a call light to help our residents. This policy works toward building a more healthy "team" atmosphere for the employees, and patients benefit from having their needs met in a timely manner. The problem for the rehab staff is that every minute we're not actively working with a patient on caseload, is a minute we can't capture toward our productivity.
So, do I answer call lights and help out patients (whether on rehab or not)? Of course I do. As well, I help the aide staff when they need a second person to assist with a transfer. Sure it might be the company policy, but I look at it as not just assisting the patients but also helping the aide staff, who are constantly helping me with some of those difficult patients throughout the day.
Where else are my minutes lost? Without a doubt, it's my documentation style (or lack thereof). As much as I strive to keep up with my notes throughout the day, I simply never do. I believe it's equal parts intently focusing on the patient (if you've ever worked with an impulsive dementia patient, you know what I'm talking about) and unproductive multitasking (i.e. scheduling appointments with other PTs, writing progress notes etc.). All of these tasks need to be done during the day of course, but finding the perfect balance between documenting and the actual treatment session is tricky.
Therefore, my final resolution for the year (because I have a few) will be to raise my productivity for 2014 -- not for my next performance review necessarily, but because I work hard and I'd like a more accurate reflection of that. If anyone has any brilliant tips or strategies for reaching an 80-90% productivity level, I would love your feedback. I'll need all the help I can get! Thanks and Happy New Year everyone.
About a month before Christmas, I formally requested the day off, which is standard protocol for the large, corporate-run, skilled nursing facility where I work. The "request" was in writing, detailing dates and "vacation days" remaining in my yearly benefits. I also verbally discussed taking the day off with my rehab director and his assistant. In the end I received a weak, "we'll see what we can do" response. This was not what I was hoping to hear, in light of such advanced notice.
To be honest, I was feeling stressed and a little entitled. I'd just worked Thanksgiving and celebrated the holiday without my kids, as they were with their father and his family. I was looking forward to them spending Christmas with me, in accordance with our separation agreement, and I wanted to enjoy the whole day together. And, hey -- I just worked Thanksgiving!
As we all know, there are many differences between inpatient and outpatient PT, which fellow ADVANCE blogger Michael discussed this week. Frankly, the two have complete different skill sets and schedules. A hospital never closes, after all. Although I love working in a SNF, working holidays and rotating weekends can be depressing -- especially when my outpatient PT friends are enjoying three-day weekends on Labor Day. With that said, holiday pay is extremely helpful and welcome when the 4th of July falls on a Wednesday. Anyway, a few weeks went by and I found myself hovering around the PT work-schedule calendar posted in the rehab office. My name was still on for December 25th without even a possible question mark (which is what usually happens when they need a PRN therapist to fill a shift).
Finally, my boss dropped the bad news in my lap one evening as I was leaving for the day. He sympathetically explained that as one of the three full-time PTAs, it would be necessary for me to work that day -- despite my one-month advance request. The newly hired PT was off that day, per her contractual agreement. I was completely bummed, for lack of a better description. I went home and immediately started "Operation Plan B Christmas." It involved relatives babysitting my kids in the morning and arriving home for takeout Christmas dinner.
After stewing over the bad news (all week), I came to a few realizations. I'm not the only person working on Christmas and I'm lucky to have this job at all. More importantly, my patients will also be away from their homes and working as well, with me in therapy. Perhaps going to work and making a difficult situation a little more tolerable for someone else is the whole point of Christmas. Having finally made peace with my modified holiday, the rehab director announced a week later that he made the executive decision to close the gym for Christmas anyway. I was thrilled of course (if not initially confused) and grateful for the gift of time I can spend with my family. But there was a bit of regret I wouldn't be there for my patients on that day. This will be the last Christmas I take for granted, for a long time.
Hello there, ADVANCE readers. My name is Allison Young and I've been a PTA for more than two years now in a skilled nursing facility setting. I took a year or two respite from the "blogosphere" to concentrate on my career and family with varying degrees of success, which I'll expand on later. To recap quickly, I began my original blog with ADVANCE as a fledgling student, also known as "Life of an SPTA," then graduated to my "Life of a PTA" perspective, albeit a new and naive therapist.
Although I'm still a "young" therapist, the experience I've gained over the past few years working with everything from post-op patients to the geriatric population (my personal favorite) has left me feeling like an embattled solider many days. Through full-time challenging patients and immense mentoring opportunities awarded to me by my seasoned PT and PTA coworkers, this experience has allowed my confidence as a therapist to grow.
My first year as a therapist, which I brutally described in detail during my previous blog tenure (honestly, I can barely read those posts now), left me white-knuckling the steering wheel every morning I drove into the facility parking lot. These days, I'm more concerned if my patients are progressing safely toward their short-term goals and whether I'll have enough time to fit in a run after work.
Don't get me wrong, the pressure is a constant in the current SNF setting. Patients are in high levels of pain, motivation to get out of their beds is low and the "productivity" clock never slows down -- which makes for a daily stress-filled environment. Looking back at my first few blogs as a licensed PTA, I believe "stress" headlined most of my discussions. Is the stress still there? Sure! But I've learned to process and adapt as well as find ways to take care of myself outside of work -- which is of huge importance and highly recommended, by the way.
Personally my life has changed as well. I'm still a mom of two, one of whom is a teenage girl now, which raises the level of parenting difficulty to 9 out of 10. If you have a 13-year-old daughter, you know exactly what I'm talking about (and I'm sorry by the way, I'm told it will get better). As well, I'm now a single, working mother having recently gone through a divorce.
Difficult times lie behind and in front of us all both personally and professionally, so I'm looking forward to communicating my experiences in the hope that someone can relate, maybe laugh and give me thoughts and feedback. I'll try to bring my unique perspective to this physical therapy community every week. I welcome your opinion and would love the discussion. Thanks for reading, great to be back!
I recently received quite a few heartfelt responses to a blog I wrote last year on the subject of the dreaded PTA "state board licensure exam." I feel your pain, people. I vividly remember the pre/post anxiety and panic of preparing and actually taking the test.
Many readers asked about the timeliness of receiving the test results. My case was different, since I found out I passed exactly five days after the test and I heard of a few of my classmates having found out they passed through the PSBPT website as early as three days post. You want to see your license indicate "ACTIVE."
There is also the option to find out your test score early through a nominal fee of $50. However, I opted to stew in my fear and anxiety for those few days and, well -- I spent that $50 towards a "congratulatory-either-way" dinner with my husband. Whether I had passed or not, the fact that I didn't have to hide out in my "study corner" of the house for the first night in many, was reason to celebrate in itself.
As I stated in my original blog on the subject, I was petrified that I might have failed -- which is no exaggeration. I did indeed cry on the way home from the testing center, certain of this failure. I wasn't confident walking into the test as it was. I historically struggle with test-taking and scored dismally on Scorebuilders and the PEAT pre-tests. Luckily, I did pass that day and was able to shelf the whole experience as one of the more painful/stressful of my life (second only to childbirth and moving out-of-state).
Re-reading all of the comments posted by anxious readers, I certainly hope you received the same good news. However, if not -- my advice to you is to not give up! The day before I was to take the test, I posed this worst-case scenario to one of the PTs I work with. I asked, "What happens if I fail the test?" She responded (without skipping a beat), "You'll study some more and re-take the test... until you pass."
Basically, what I want to impart to you folks out there is that your journey is really just getting started. If you passed the test, my sincerest congratulations but if not, it's only a matter of time before you will. Focus your study time on your weakest topic (that was neuro for me) and be relentless. If you survived PTA school, quitting should not be in your vocabulary. You earned it. You deserve it. You will pass it. Your career is waiting for you -- don't give up now!
I was reminded recently of how to recognize a truly good therapist. The observation came up when a PT was describing the individual therapists on our rehab team to a PT student. Generally, the obvious was mentioned, such as experience and specific knowledge in certain specialties. However, when describing one PTA, the therapist stated that "at the end of the day, he really cares about what happens to these people (patients), and they love working with him."
The therapist he referenced is not only my colleague, but also the one individual who has taken a virtually identical path to my own over the past few years. I first meet "Fred" in the dreaded physics class that I took twice (and which Fred passed the first time with an A).
From this auspicious beginning, Fred and I found ourselves side by side on the road to PTA school and beyond. We met again when observing at a skilled nursing center, where we discovered we both favored working with the geriatric population. Fred and I also sat next to each other for the two years in school and had exactly the same clinical affiliation settings.
As I was beginning a second career in physical therapy, Fred would admit this is his fourth (maybe fifth) career change. But lucky for us and the patients, it's his last. Fred was one of the older students in our class, including myself, who just made the cutoff of the "over 35 group."
Fred, with his completely gray hair, is an unapologetic "over 55'er." The combination of life experience (including surviving the ‘60s and fatherhood) and straight-up charm makes Fred one of the most popular therapists on staff -- and not just in the patients' opinion. By Fred's second week of work at the facility (he began a few months after I did), he had already established a "you fly, I'll buy" coffee group with the CNAs. (For the record, he paid for the coffee and they picked it up).)
Before long, everyone was an "F.O.F." (Friend of Fred -- which I coined much to his embarrassment when I mentioned there might be t-shirts). In the therapy gym he was simply known as "Dr. Fred," which many patients mistook him for upon first meeting him (it's the hair, I think).
The best thing about working with my friend and colleague is that our PTA histories are so similar -- we will often relay incredible observations and experiences to each other throughout the day -- akin to two kids at their first baseball game: "Did you see that transfer?" "How did the PT do that?"
Fred also happens to be our "closer" therapist. If a patient declines therapy repeatedly, bring in Fred. More often than not, Fred's sense of humor will charm the patient into supine ther-ex on the mat table. It doesn't hurt that he's incredibly patient and compassionate either.
I feel privileged to have been witness to my friend's professional growth and success. I guess Fred is the perfect example of "you're never too old to learn something new" -- applying this motto daily in the most perfect setting.