It is hard to believe I have now worked as a physical therapist for over 4 years. My fitness business also just passed the year mark, and I am always looking for ways to improve. I typically mentor 2-3 PT students a year, on top of some undergraduate interns, and most are curious how to quickly become better at their future craft. Continuing education, learning from colleagues and reading everything you can are certainly important. I would like to share a few habits that I have learned from people that have changed how I approach treating and coaching.
1. Take an interest in your patients and clients personally
Often times we can get carried away with creating the perfect training plan or treatment approach with a direct focus on the outcome. If you don’t develop trust and respect to start with, it can be difficult to reach that successful end goal. Any easy way to develop this talent is to stop talking and listen. Remember, someone is paying you for a service. It is not about what you want for the patient, it is what they want from you. So start by learning what your patients do for fun, what their kids are into, or how they are dealing with a tough situation. Take an interest because you mean it. When you care about people, they usually care about you in return. When people care about you as a provider, the end result is usually fantastic.
2. Treat your patients and clients how you would treat yourself in the same situation
It can be all too easy to become hyper-focused on business metrics when running a business or working in healthcare. If I teach my students one thing during their rotations, I hope it is to treat patients not only ethically, but how you would expect to be treated yourself. While this is not a novel concept, I see it violated all the time in healthcare. It makes me cringe. My goal for a majority of non-surgical patients is to have most symptoms under control within 4 visits. While this is certainly not possible with all, if the value of your service or power to make positive change is not clearly greater than your patient’s investment of time and money, it is time for them to move on. Critically analyze if you would be happy with the care you give, and refer out to someone you respect if that is not possible given the complexity of the case.
3. Read, listen, learn, reflect.
We live in the age of technology and free information. Sometimes this is detrimental, but the more exposure you get to others within the industry the more you identify patterns of similar thinking that make sense to you. I would encourage young professionals to listen to podcasts, read blogs and keep up with others on social media. Here a few sources that I think are fantastic.
On the podcast front, I love content from Tim Ferriss and The Fitcast. Any orthopedic physical therapist or strength coach should keep up with Mike Reinold , Eric Cressey and The Manual Therapist, among about 20 other great ones. All of these are basically free content, so take pieces of advice and information that make good sense to you and forget the extraneous that you won’t use. Learning in different ways is easier than ever, and the more of us that are on the same page can help foster great team approaches and improve patient and client quality of life.
These are 3 helpful strategies that I learned from successful clinicians and coaches, and hopefully incorporating some of these practices can improve your outcomes and relationships with patients and clients!