Dan Dale, PT, DPT
I’ve been blessed to have had the recent opportunity to do a fair amount of education among PT and PTA students, new clinicians at my workplace, and with orthopedic and neurological residents from Mercer University’s residency program. Educating current and future clinicians is an unbelievably humbling experience. On one side, I have felt honored to have my peers’ time and attention. On the other side, I have felt a deep sense of commitment to the future of the profession. Having recently completed the APTA Clinical Instructor credentialing program, mentoring a student for a full rotation, and transitioning jobs within the continuum of care at the Shepherd Center, I have just now started to realize the power of what a good mentorship relationship does for the mentor, not just the mentee.
In my recent teaching, I came across a great article that sums up some important points for recent graduates in their first year of practice. The article is entitled “The First Year of Practice: An Investigation of the Professional Learning and Development of Promising Novice Physical Therapists,” written by Lisa L. Black et al.1 The article, published in the Physical Therapy Journal in 2010, followed 11 promising new graduates through their first year of practice. Interviews, reflective journals, and reviews of academic and clinical education records and resumes were performed.
The study concluded that there were four consistent themes that were identified as core concepts that were tightly integrated in a developmental process for the therapist. These four themes were that therapists needed to be engaged in professional identity formation and role transitions, clinical environments influenced the performance of the novice therapist, learning through experience and social interaction in the workplace was directed towards self, and growing confidence was directly related to developing communication skills.
All four of these themes spoke to me and made sense as I read through the article. However, the last one truly stuck out in my mind as the most important theme for developing strong skills. Through my role as a mentor in this past year, I have learned that good communication skills truly do help grow the confidence of young therapists, as witnessed within my own clinical practice. We communicate with our clients, families, other healthcare professionals, outside vendors, etc. every single day. I remember as a new therapist the hesitation I felt when communicating with our attending physician. However, as I grew in my communication skills and comfort level, I learned how to be effective when advocating for my thoughts and beliefs as a therapist.
As I now share this study with most of those whom I mentor, I make it a point to tell the importance of communication skills as a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant. Our profession’s ability to consistently demonstrate altruism, caring and compassion, excellence, and our passion depends on our ability to effectively communicate our wealth of knowledge and skills. So if you are a novice therapist, or an experienced mentor, please continue to value and practice the skill of effective communication. As Anthony Robbins once said, “The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”
1. Black LL, Jensen G, et al. The First Year of Practice: An Investigation of the Professional Learning and Development of Promising Novice Physical Therapists. Physical Therapy. Vol 90 (12); 1-16.
Daniel graduated with his Doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2011 from Armstrong Atlantic State University. He currently works in the Day Program rehab unit at the Shepherd Center, a model center for spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation, located in Atlanta, GA. Daniel currently serves as Recording Secretary for the Physical Therapy Association of Georgia, and has served as a Delegate and Chief Delegate in 2014 representing Georgia at the APTA House of Delegates. Daniel has presented multiple times since 2011 at both Combined Sections Meeting and Annual Conference, directed towards leadership and engagement for Early Career Individuals. Daniel also has served on multiple task forces for the Physical Therapy Association of Georgia, the American Physical Therapy Association, and the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Daniel is a current APTA Credentialed Clinical Instructor, as well as a member of the APTA Perspectives Editorial Advisory Group. Recently, Daniel was named an APTA Emerging Leader for the state of Georgia in 2013.