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PT and the Greater Good

‘Useless. Totally Useless'

Published June 28, 2013 11:50 AM by Dean Metz

Last week, I watched the four-part video series on the ADVANCE website where Paul Rockar Jr., PT, DPT, MS, and current APTA president, talks about the challenges facing the profession. He is spot on, in my opinion, and a reasonable, rationale voice in terms of what is needed right now. I strongly encourage a listen if you haven't heard him in person. He voices repeatedly the need for the profession to prove the value of what we do. This need was verified this weekend.

I was visiting a relative in Florida and spent a morning in the community pool. As usual, the chatter among the attendees focused on healthcare. For a change, it was all about physical therapy. People were sharing their "nightmare" stories about PT. I was tempted to jump in right away, but then I thought I would shut up and listen.

"I was left alone on a table for half an hour. When someone finally came in and asked how I was doing, I said I was leaving. They said they were short-staffed."

"I had physical therapy for my ankle. They didn't do anything! They iced it, gave me a sheet of exercises and sent me home. I could've done that!"

"They put my hand in this warm sand thing. That was it. What was that for?"

"My wife hurt her back. The last place I'd ever take her is physical therapy!"

"They don't do anything, really."

"Useless, totally useless to go to PT."

This wasn't just one practice being discussed; it was the profession on the whole. Five people, each with a bad story about physical therapy. Granted, the pool chatter can be a game of who can outdo each other's story, but this wasn't who can top whom. This was unanimous.

I think we need to heed Mr. Rockar's advice.


I hear the same comments all the time.  Dennis is correct.   For the most part PTs don't own their profession.  They feel responsibility for their patients and nothing more.  Those that do are eventually worn down by employers who keep asking for more with less.  

Toni June 28, 2013 7:09 PM

Unfortunately, these stories are not uncommon.  Part of the problem is that PT's generally don't own their own profession.  The usual track isn't into private practice.  Therefore, PT's generally work for companies who are in business to make money, and lots of it.  We typically have someone else (usually non-clinicians) telling us how many patients we can see, and that can mean seeing 2-3 or more patients at a time all day long.  Our employers further degrade the profession by adding in lesser qualified staff to act on our behalf, to "help" us since we are so busy.  Additionally, we are made to practice in ways that do not promote continuity of care, so a patient may end up seeing multiple therapists throughout their care, and often at the expense of good outcomes.  

Thus, if we are made to practice in the wrong fashion by our employers, and made to use lesser qualified personnel, and then compound this through poor scheduling and no continuity of care, it is actually amazing that we don't get even more negative feedback than we already do.  

Dennis, PT - Director June 28, 2013 1:19 PM
Jacksonville FL

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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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