What Not to Say on a Date
It's been a while since I've heard something that really offended me. I don't mean upset where I can get over it quickly. I was offended and no apology was going fix it. I was having dinner with a date who was trying to impress me by talking about his experience with PT. After his evaluation he requested a female therapist. When I objected he laughed and said, "It's not like it's brain surgery." I walked out.
There is more to that story. His evaluation was performed by a male therapist who was a shoulder specialist. He didn't describe the female therapist other than to say she was drop-dead beautiful and a cheerleader for our pro basketball team. He wanted her to exercise him because it would be more fun.
I don't know which was worse; his comparison to brain surgery or him not understanding why I was offended. Obviously I was dealing with an idiot. Comparing PT to not being brain surgery demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of what we do. Had he kept his mouth shut I could have educated him on the profession, although I doubt there was a teachable moment since he felt this way after completing his therapy with a shoulder that was as good as new.
I don't care what the female therapist looked like. Physical appearance is not a reason to choose a therapist. My "date" was appalled that I would equate his choice to choosing a young, pretty doctor over the older, experienced one. I guess all medicine is equivalent to brain surgery to him. I'm not saying the female therapist was unskilled or didn't know what she was doing. She could have been a better therapist than her coworker. I am saying that choosing a therapist based solely on appearance is offensive.
I would be offended if one of my stroke patients wanted a different therapist for a reason other than gender or religious beliefs. I've worked long and hard to acquire my skill and knowledge. I would consider such a request an insult. Such a request implies therapists are interchangeable and skill/knowledge isn't important. I refute that argument every time I'm assigned an orthopedic patient. Yes, I can treat that person but I'm not good at it. I'm average. Someone who does ortho all the time would design a much better plan of care.
I hope the APTA is paying attention here. It looks like more education is needed about what PTs do and the importance of specialization. This is a perfect example of what the APTA should be focusing on rather than what it is focusing on. In the long run, we'll all be better off if the public knows what we do. That way when the need arises they'll recognize a PT as the practitioner of choice for a musculoskeletal injury.
I'm sure this idiot isn't alone out there. This lack of respect goes way beyond a gender issue. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that he has no idea why I walked out on him. At least he's in the minority. It's been a while since I've run into a patient who didn't value the profession. It's been a long time since anyone has questioned what all the letters behind my name mean. The title of physical therapist is enough for them.