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Toni Talks about PT Today

It's Time For a Change

Published August 20, 2008 11:01 AM by Toni Patt
A couple of days ago I was talking to another PT friend. She's been doing this almost as long as I have. She told me she was thinking of getting out of therapy. It was "eating her up." She's considering management because she thinks the other side will be better. She isn't the first fellow therapist to tell me this. I've heard it from PTs, OTs and STs. I've had my moments when I wonder if it's possible to treat horses rather than people.

Let's face it. Being a therapist is brutal. We spend our days doing manual labor as we lift and move patients. Every day my case load seems larger. It isn't my imagination that patients are getting heavier while help is becoming scarcer. I can't remember the last time I heard a "thank you" or "good job."  Instead my reward is more patients to see.

Deciding to leave therapy is a big deal. We spend years in training and pay countless dollars for the privilege. Once we graduate we have few career choices: clinician, management at some point, teaching or research. Two of those require even more education. Some people change careers by changing jobs. Before I can make a change, I have to learn how to do something else.  In today's world that is much easier said than done.

The health care industry seems to be chewing up and spitting out its practitioners. Emphasis is placed on cost cutting not care providing. We're regularly asked to do more with less. There is less money for equipment repairs, even less for replacements. If the industry put half as much effort into retention as it does into recruitment, salary costs would probably be less. Skilled clinicians are leaving the field because they feel overworked and unappreciated.  I've worked in facilities where I had so many patients I felt defeated before I started.  Administrations must think therapy is a budget item necessary for Medicare reimbursement rather than helping patient get better.  

This can't go on forever. Staffing shortages already exist and are expected to worsen as Baby Boomers age. If therapists begin leaving the profession in large numbers, the shortage will quickly become critical. Maybe that's what it will take for things to get better.  I like what I do, but I can't keep this up forever. It's time the health care industry started looking at what it is demanding its employees. Something must happen or in the future all my friends will be ex-PTs.


I certainly concur with your comments.  I have been practicing for 19 years and almost the entire 19 years has been under staffed.  Great for job security but a short route to burn out.  And that I have been for the past several years.  I turned to management positions  for a change, have tried various practice settings, considered a career change (not practical for me at this juncture in life).  I agree that the physical demand and emotional stress are intense.  Something has got to change.  No matter where you go it seems that patient care is really last on the list of priorities.  

Denise, Geriatrics - Physical Therapist August 20, 2008 1:01 PM
Lawrenceburg TN

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