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Toni Talks about PT Today

The Pretty, Young Therapist

Published November 12, 2009 8:10 AM by Toni Patt
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.

3 comments

OK, devil's advocate here.

Your last post you championed the ability to choose the patients that you wanted to work with and those that you decided you couldn't.

Now you're telling me that patients don't have the same right?

Is this really only a one way street? We get to choose but patients do not?

That the request was based on seemingly superficial and possibly questionable motivation not withstanding. How can you justify turning certain patients away in one post and then question it when the tables are turned on you?

Dean Metz November 14, 2009 12:32 PM

I agree with you Toni.  Patient case load should be driven by who is the most qualified to treat that particular person.  I am often given patients based on my gender.  

The thought processing is that the patient will respect me more even if I have no clue what to do with the patient.  Once our profession figues out that the most qualified should see particular patients we will be in a better position to elevate our degrees.  

Jason November 12, 2009 10:34 PM

...there's only one reason someone would ask to see a "pretty, young therapist"...and the decision to send her in that patients room is sexual harassment waiting to happen.  I agree with you Toni...not just from the professional standpoint, but for the safety of your co-worker.   Tell her "pimps" they dropped the ball on this one.  

Christie ,, November 12, 2009 9:54 AM

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