Live Your Best Life
As I've been working in an outpatient orthopedic setting for the first time in almost three years, I'm beginning to remember some of the perks of working with these patients. It's been fun to educate my patients in a different way than when I worked in acute care. I have really enjoyed the one-on-one time with my patients without the constant interruptions (unintentional, I know) from doctors, nurses or other hospital staff. I'm slowly adjusting to the different focus of an outpatient evaluation (pain, loss of function) versus an inpatient acute evaluation (mobility, overall independence to care for self).
One question I ask my patients in the evaluation, or even in treatment sessions to mark our progress, is "How long have you been living with this pain?" Or, "When did the pain start?" I am very surprised that my patients will tell me they have had pain for months or years. Over that time they convinced themselves into a pattern of thinking: that the pain will eventually subside, that the pain isn't great enough to warrant attention, that any descriptions of pain will only illustrate the weaknesses of the patient, or due to lack of time the patient could not address his area of pain.
I may be channeling some of my subconscious Oprah as I write this, but I really feel badly when I hear that my patients have lived with pain for as long as they say. I cannot imagine losing any of that time due to pain. I have been lucky in that I haven't had to experience such a loss. Life is too short. Maybe that is why I am such an advocate for early intervention - both in an ICU and an outpatient setting. Life is too short to let pain "win" our time.
Physical therapists can make big impacts this way, by improving the quality of our patients' lives. And when we have the honor to help our patients this way, their lives are never the same. It's a very powerful relationship and clearly one of the most satisfying reasons to be a physical therapist.
What do you think? Do you remember a particular situation where you made a difference? Can you recall certain patients whose quality of life was improved because of your work?
P.S. I became an APTA member this week. More to come on that topic soon.