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PT and the Greater Good

Our Professional Identity

Published November 11, 2009 10:46 AM by Dean Metz
I've been out of work now for 2 months. I've accepted an offer of employment nearly 7 weeks ago, but the necessary bureaucratic steps needed to be taken so that I could work here in the UK. The good news is that all the papers are in order and I have a start date of November 9! I'm very excited to get working again.

I'm sure my spouse, friends and family are also happy that I'll be working again.

I don't do downtime well. Don't get me wrong, I love my vacations and I do take them. It is very different though when you're not quite sure that you have a job waiting at the end of the tunnel. Excessive downtime can make me very fidgety, anxious, and not the most pleasant of company to be with.

I've heard it said among some theater friends of mine that "an actor is only an actor if he actually has a part, otherwise he is a waiter."

When we're not actively practicing, are we still a PT? Of course I've used this time to read up on the NHS, where I'll be working, to read articles on rehab and health related topics, to stay abreast of the politics of health care both in the US and the UK, and to apply for admission to a Masters in Public Health program. However, the role that has been the center of my life for nearly 20 years, PT, has been dormant. This has caused some real identity issues.

What it brought to light for me was the impact illness has on our patients. They too have been busy with their lives which give them their identity, something happens to throw a wrench into their normal routine and they come to us to assist them in making them whole again. They want themselves back; the athlete, the writer, the musician, the mom, the dentist, the provider, the person with something to offer.

Sure, we've all learned about this in PT school and understand it on an intellectual basis. But really stop and think and feel about how would you be affected if one day, suddenly, you couldn't practice PT anymore?

What would you do?



Hope your first day of work went swimmingly!

I can empathize with your plight.  Deciding not to work is far different than being told you can't work.  I was on bedrest for a time during both my first and second pregnancies.  I love to sleep.  I love to lounge in the bed.  On Saturday morning as a luxury or when I'm at the beach on vacation, that is.  To be told you have to lay in the bed and you may not get up except to pee...quite a different matter.  It is maddening.

Equally maddening when the decision not to work is one that is made for you rather than one you make yourself.  Due to residual deficits from a postponed surgical repair, I was unable to continue hands on treatment, which even took me out of the running for some supervisory/management positions that mandated clinical time as a responsibility.  I got a job I loved that was a cross between management and training - my dream job.  But, in a buy out my department was abolished.   My husband and I decided it was time for me to come home with our children full time.  

This time it was my decision, but it was still hard.  I was doing something I loved, but for years my identity was built around the "working" world.  Every day for more than a decade I had "important" tasks to complete, reports to fill out, people reporting to me, meetings to go to, committees to serve on.  I felt important because of what I accomplished and had a paycheck to validate my contributions.  My toddler telling me she had to potty while I was changing an infant's diaper for the 10th time that day just didn't stack up - but the laundry sure did!

It took me awhile to figure out that my difficulty came because I measure my importance by the tangible contributions I make.  I'm slowly realizing that the impact of WHO I AM (as opposed to WHAT I DO) is equally valuable.  Doing is much easier than being.  Doing is easy enough to fake.  Being, on the other hand, exposes my true character.  

When we take away our doing, we often find we haven't spent much time cultivating our character, the essence of who we are.  When we can learn to live there, life is much sweeter and even the doing takes on more meaning.  

I wouldn't trade my life now for anything, but honestly I have much more challenging days "not working" than I ever had "working".  Turns out this being is not such an easy skill to master.  

janey goude November 16, 2009 1:39 AM

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About this Blog

    Dean Metz
    Occupation: Staff Development Specialist
    Setting: New York, NY – Newcastle Upon Tyne, Great Britain
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