Practice Like You Give a Damn is my take on fighting against those ugly habits formed early in our professional lives as physical therapists. Our patients benefit when our profession practices at the highest level. This will only start when you take true intention towards making desirable and lasting changes to how your practice.
Structured Learning Experiences
What's a structured learning experience?
For students and new grads, it can range from your clinical internships to fellowship training, and anything in between.
For the sake of discussion, I'll leave continuing education out, because the timeframe of a typical course is too short. I'm talking about longer periods of time for structured learning: clinical internships, residencies, fellowships.
With these experiences, there is goal in place for the training, and for the most part the progression is already pre-determined. Given that experiential learning will make an immense impact on how you practice as a physical therapist, how do you make the best of your time?
In other words, how do you not waste the valuable experience? Simply put, you gotta be hungry for more. I find this is true at any level, clinical internships, residencies, or fellowships. Yes the material will be dense, but whenever you're down in the dumps discouraged of the large workload remind yourself this - YOU ASKED FOR THIS.
There are many other colleagues who love to take your position to advance and grow. And if you're really down in the dumps about the workload to succeed in a program, then be honest with yourself, because maybe the program isn't for you.
Here are some key points on making the best of a structured learning experience:
1. Demand more from yourself.
All structured learning experiences are designed to essentially elevate your practice, but understand that the elevation in your skill set is a two way street. Programs are already demanding, so make sure you demand more from yourself.
Whatever study habits that worked well in undergrad and even PT school - throw them out the window, even if they worked. Demand more of yourself and work and develop study habits that not only work well, like it did in the past, but work REALLY well. It's one thing to improve your clinical practice, but now you can improve your preparation as well.
If you've read a previous post, you know I love sports analogies: When a player gets into the NBA, not only does that person have to elevate their game on the court, that player also have to elevate their game off the court too.
Got it? Good. (Don't get it? Email me.)
Here are some suggestions on how to demand more from yourself:
2. Demand more from your mentors.
(Notice how I ordered what comes next? You can't demand more out of your mentors and squeeze out every juicy insight and advice unless you demanded more out of yourself. Trust me. Mentors know when you haven't done the groundwork yourself. I've served in similar roles lately, and its frustrating when I know the mentee hasn't done their homework per se.)
Ask your mentors to be really hard on you. I mean, why else did you sign yourself up for the program? To have the easy way out? Be straight up and honest to your mentor that you want everything that your mentor can possible provide and guide you with. Most good mentors will love hearing that and run with it. Be prepared to be challenged. You'll be better for this.
And you'll be prepared to handle your mentor too (remember number 1?)
3. Question everything.
Okay funny story now. This is one that my residency mentor STILL LOLs when we reminisce about the story.
--During residency, we had labs to learn in-depth the manual therapy techniques. We were learning a thoracic spine mobilization/manipulation at the time, and we had a spine model laid out on a treatment table for reference. So my mentor would always reference to the 'barrier" or restriction that a manual therapy technique would help with.
Typical me, I asked, "can you show me the barrier on the spine model?"
My residency mentor was puzzled. Then she laughed.
Out loud. Very loudly.---
You see I didn't really understand that 'barrier" was simply a concept - it wasn't something truly tangible to see especially on a spine model. I still demand to see the barrier from my residency mentor today. She has yet to show it to me.
Anyways, question everything! Asks lots of questions, even if it makes you look stupid.
Think of it in a bigger perspective - after you're done with your structured learning experience, who else can you ask questions with in once you're out in clinic? Yes you can ask your colleagues or past mentors questions, but at least when you're in a structured learning experience there's a mutual understanding and expectation that your questions will be met and answered to help you grow.
When you force yourself to ask plenty of questions, it'll get your mind going to see the what if's and what about this or that scenarios in your head. You'll be nurturing the critical thinking skillset early.
Thanks for reading!
Ryan Balmes is a physical therapist practicing orthopaedic and sports physical therapy with performance always in mind. He is a board certified clinical specialist in Orthopaedics and Sports physical therapy and a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists. With his specializations, Ryan is passionate about giving back to the profession by teaching and mentoring to elevate clinical practice. Ryan's personal blog page can be found at his Haven Profile.