The Pretty, Young Therapist
Last week something was said during rounds that I'm still angry about. We were discussing a new admission. Since my case load was low, I asked if I needed to see the patient. In response, I was told the patient had been given to the young, pretty therapist because that was who he'd asked for. That statement is wrong. It's not just wrong, it's wrong in many different ways. I'm not referring to the inference that I'm not young and pretty, although I should resent that. I'm thinking more of the implications to our profession.
That action makes as much sense as assigning me an older physician because he looks distinguished. Looking distinguished doesn't make him a good doctor. At most it makes him look like the ones we see on TV. I work with many neurologic residents. They would all laugh loudly if they were told patients were to be assigned based on age, appearance and individual patient preference. The fact is in any other discipline, patients are assigned based on something objective such as room location, case load, specialty of the practioner or by predetermined order.
I realize the statement was meant as a joke. I would have taken it that way and forgotten about the whole thing if the patient really hadn't been assigned to a therapist who fit that description. What does that say about our profession? The APTA, state and local chapters are all arguing that we are doctors of physical therapy. They say we have specialized knowledge about neuromuscular function and should be taken seriously. It's hard to take something seriously when criteria like young and pretty are used for patient assignment.
In medicine, additional training is rewarded with more respect, sometimes more money and recognition of that specialized knowledge. Now that DPTs are becoming more common, you would hope the same standards would apply. Apparently that's not happening. There were several other people present when the statement was made. No one else saw anything wrong with it. We're never going to get the recognition and respect for our profession if we continue to include young and pretty as qualifications for providing patient care.
It's been over a week and I'm still so made I could just spit. One of my coworkers recently decided she was going to pursue her DPT. The only concern she had was that it would take up too much time. She's my age, so young and pretty won't work for her. I don't think she realizes the degree would have no value if it was easily obtained with little effort. I must be missing something somewhere.
I'm not over reacting. I took a simple statement and blew it up to make a point. Physical therapy still has some internal difficulties to overcome before it can become the doctoring profession it seeks to be. It's telling that no one else saw a problem with this. Until everyone sees the problem with the young and pretty therapist, we won't be any closer to our goal.