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Toni Talks about PT Today

Experience Counts

Published January 15, 2008 11:40 AM by Toni Patt

An OT friend and I were talking the other day. Between the two of us, we have almost 50 years of experience. There doesn't seem to be that many of us "old ladies" around any more. Frequently I'm the most experienced person in the facilities where I work. Almost all new hires I've met have had less than two years experience. My friend and I are part of a vanishing breed, or so we think.  

On many issues, the two of us think the same way. Our favorite topic is that we are too old to keep doing this. We go home from work tired. We feel heavy patients for days after we work with them. We talk about what we would do if we quit being therapists. So far we haven't come up with anything. Therapy is all we know how to do. With our experience, we're very good at it. We also agree that our experience doesn't seem to be worth much any more.

We feel unappreciated. Employers don't want to hire us because they don't want to pay us what we're worth. Back in the day it was considered a coup to hire someone with experience. In return, that someone was expected to help others learn. Now, employers look at the bottom line. If experience costs money, they don't want it. A few weeks ago I was working in a clinic that hired a new grad DPT to take over a brain injury program. She had no neurologic experience. She had no experience at all. She will learn.  While that occurs, the quality of care is going to drop. The amount charged for that care won't change.  There is something wrong with that.

We've also noticed lack of respect from co-workers. I'm not talking about everyone. I'm talking about one or two who pop up. These people seem to think that because we don't know the latest buzzwords or follow the latest research our knowledge is questionable. I may not have the evidence. But I have the experience to know which treatment works best or when one treatment is better than another. I worked in a clinic like that. Everyone knew a lot about one thing. No one knew how to treat something out of the ordinary. I did. I also knew how to handle difficult patients and was willing to work with the lower-level patients.

The therapies are a hard occupation. At times it can be manual labor to move patients or transfer them. If I want to do a therapeutic transfer I'm not going to use a Hoyer lift. I'm going to physically move the patient. Treating patients wears us down. If we're not lifting, we're rushing to meet deadlines or treat double- or triple-booked patients. More and more often I go to work and wonder if I can get through the day. High-cost, super-strong coffee is becoming a necessity rather than a treat. Those of us who've been doing this a long time have paid a price for our experience.

Now I sometimes feel my profession is forgetting about me. The latest push is on the youth who will become DPTs and move the profession forward. In Vision 2020 there is talk of all the things the DPT will be doing. I have yet to hear where I fit into the picture with my bachelor's degree. I'm not going to retire before then. Right now I don't know what I will do. I hope my profession recognizes the experience and knowledge I have developed for the assets they are. I hope it recognizes the value of experience. Maybe movement in that direction will open the eyes of employers. I can hope. In the mean time my friend and I will keep plugging along doing what we do best.


I think it's great when experienced professionals start questioning the value (to yourself) of their work.  I think the experience is a great asset to start thinking outside the box.  Your experience and your training qualifies you for so much more than "rushing to meet deadlines" or treating "double-triple booked patients".  Explore with an entrepreneurial spirit.  How about "real" personal training with the more active geriatric population with health issues.  There's an obesity epidemic and just plain "poor health" epidemic that exercise can truly help.  There's an aging population who will most likely connect with you much more than to a new grad DPT.  While experience may not mean much to co-workers or employers, your target audience (the patients or "clients") will appreciate and value that.  

Dave January 30, 2008 8:43 AM

As a PTA with 10+ years I have found the newbies want to impress me with what they know but have only a faint idea about what true patient care is.  Yes the employers balk at what it costs for me to work for them but when all is said and done it is worth it.  

I have found employers like those with 2-5 years of experience and then they promote them to positions they are unable to handle or simply are forced into like rehab manager/director

Jason January 19, 2008 11:01 PM

I agree, however, I own a solo practice.  I work 50+ hours a week and cannot find anyone to work.  They, for some reason, want to work at the hospital (personal bias showing).  But, as I attend courses I see more of what you are talking about, they know the evidence but not how to treat patients.  On recent shoulder course I attended the instructor asked how many people were performing joint mobilizations, only about 6 or 7 of us raised our hands, the youngsters had not learned joint mobs. What a shame.  They want everyone to call them doctor but they cannot adequately treat a patient.  They can explain to the patient what a frozen shoulder is, but can they restore the patients function?  If that is what they want to do then they should have gone to medical school and not PT school.  Long live the "old ladies" AND "old men" of PT.  "If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life". Not sure who said it.

Carl Bruno, PT - Owner, Grace PT January 18, 2008 8:09 AM
Fredericksburg VA

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