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Toni Talks about PT Today

Workaholic or Hard Worker?

Published August 26, 2009 5:40 PM by Toni Patt
Anyone in the profession of physical therapy knows there are several areas of contention surrounding the move to the DPT.  Some I think are valid points.  Others, I don't see the problem.  One irks me to no end.  I don't understand why a new grad DPT is able to leave on time.  What is the point of leaving on time if you haven't finished your work?  I don't think leaving work on time every day-no matter what-is a skill to be bragging about.  I think completing your work, even if it takes a little longe,r is a sign of a responsible person. 

Consider this situation.  The census in my unit has picked up dramatically.  Everyone is carrying a full load and then some.  Because of the three hour therapy rule and the amount of documentation, it isn't always possible to complete everything in 8 hours.  So, many of us are putting in the extra hours.  Does staying late to finish our work make us workaholics or responsible professionals? 

The answer to that depends upon what is considered to be more valuable.  If it is more important to leave work on time, we are workaholics. What if leaving on time means paperwork wasn't completed?   That bothers me because I was taught to never leave paperwork undone.  If for some reason I don't make it in the next day, it might not get done.  Or, if a patient discharges unexpectedly, it might not be possible to track down the chart later on.  If I start my day doing paper work for yesterday, it's possible I might forget something.  And, if I'm doing paperwork, I don't have as much time to prepare for my day.

If it's more important to finish everything then we are dedicated professionals.  We're doing what needs to be done to fulfill our job requirements.  No one wants to get home later.  That cuts into family and leisure time.  No one is looking for more work to do.  Sure, notes I write late in the day probably aren't my best effort, but all the important information will be included.

Or, consider a person who has the same load as I do, the same documentation as I do, but manages to get everything done and leave on time.  How is this possible?  That person must be cutting corners somewhere.  I would hope treatments aren't being cut short.  You can only shave so much time off note writing and still meet the requirements for reimbursement.  I suspect that person is skipping all the other "little" things that should be done but aren't absolutely necessary.  Today I finished late because I had three conversations with physicians.  I scheduled a translator for a patient.  I redid my schedule for tomorrow twice to accommodate changes in patient schedules.  I attended stroke rounds.  And, I ordered a BSC for a patient who was finally ready to use it.  None of that had to be done, but it was nice when done.

I fail to understand why so much emphasis is placed on not working as hard. Neither my co-workers nor I would be considered workaholics.  We simply like to be thorough.  Maybe someday someone will explain that to me.  Maybe that same person will also explain why it's okay to stop doing the little extras that routinely come up.  In the meantime I'll be working hard rather than hardly working.


First of all, thanks for your efforts.  Believe me, your patients and co-workers notice.  Chances are, if everyone is staying late except for 1 or 2 people, then the "early birds" ARE cutting corners and that may not only be unethical, but illegal which is problematic for everyone including management.  So what to do? First, look at what can be done differently while still doing the right thing.  It could be some things can be incorporated into the patient treatment, so you're not doing so much patient-related care outside billable time.  For example, if a patient is receiving a supervised modality or some treatment requiring your eyes but not necessarily your hands for the moment, could you order equipment while that treatment is occurring?

Perhaps you are doing everything as efficiently as possible as I can see you have many years experience.  I know that sometimes so many patients are scheduled that even just treating patients extends beyond an 8 hour day ( One time I had 11 evals/admits that I had to do on a Saturday in an IRF, so believe me, I understand how it can be sometimes).  The thing is that it's important to have a life outside work and it's managment's job to help you solve this problem.  What would help is if your staff agrees to meet with management as a group to determine how best to solve it - whether it's reducing paperwork, automating documentation, hiring more staff/calling in PRN's, or reorganizing staff schedules to better handle the load.  Patient care should not have to be compromised neither should your personal life!  Hang in there, and good luck!

Connie Sutherland, PT August 28, 2009 4:11 PM
Midland TX

If I were in your shoes, I'd be frustrated too.  

But on the off chance one of your coworkers is like my husband, I'll speak on their behalf.  You said a coworker has the same patient load and same documentation as you do but gets done on time.  "Gets done" implies they finish their work.  That is a different category from "leaves early."

My husband can do more work and superior work to his co-workers in 1/3 of the time.  The way his mind works with his profession, he just can.  He used to work in a different field and he could do that job in 1/2 the time.  While his chosen professions obviously complement his abilities, he had success in two totally different careers and in both cases the time he required to do the work was a fraction of his co-workers.

I know the time he puts in and can vouch for that.  His reviews and raises attest to his performance.  If that's not enough, he's the one they call on to train others.

His ability to finish early has nothing to do with his work ethic.  He has a strong work ethic - if there is extra work to be done, he'll be the last one to leave.

If I was reading this, I'd be suspicious.  Still flabbergasts me and I live with it.  I'm not sure what it is or how it works, it just does.  Honestly, it is frustrating for me.  I'm one of those who works longer, yet he has a special gift to be able to work smarter.  And it is a gift.  As long as we've been married, if it was a skill I could learn, I'd be leaving early too by now!

Janey August 27, 2009 12:11 PM

Two words:  Work Ethic

Some have it (like you), and some don't

Jason Marketti August 26, 2009 9:52 PM

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