Answering your Questions about being a Physical Therapist

On Instagram I asked for your feedback on what you want to see more and less of this 2019. A lot of you are interested in seeing more lifestyle content, specifically more about my day job. In this post, I’m answering your most asked questions about being a physical therapist.

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How many years of college does it take to be a physical therapist?

It’s a 3-year doctoral program, so I was in college for a total of 7 years. Technically, I’m Dr. Amanda, but that sounds so funny to me. After graduating you have to pass a board exam to get a license to practice. I could barf just thinking about the board exam again.. haha. I was convinced I failed! My computer even blacked out in the middle of the test.

Was physical therapy school difficult?

It was the hardest thing I’ve done so far. The first year was the hardest. Adjusting to a new city with a new long-distance relationship, in 4-hour lectures all day, taking 5-hour orthopedic exams. My brain had never been more stressed and exhausted! Not to mention the semester of neuroanatomy. By far the hardest class I’ve ever had to take. Although it was the hardest time of my life, it was also some of my favorite years together with friends from my class.

Where did you go to college for your physical therapy degree?

I went to Armstrong Atlantic State University (now Georgia Southern – Armstrong Campus) in Savannah, GA and graduated in 2016. I got my undergraduate degree in Exercise Science at Kennesaw State University. I transferred there after playing softball for two years at Columbus State University.

Did you always have good grades?

In high school, I didn’t have good grades. I thought homework was optional.. lol. But in college I knew I was paying to be there to make a career out of it, so I really applied myself while playing college softball my freshman and sophomore year. Once I decided I wanted to get into PT school I think my competitive drive kicked into overtime. I graduated with a 3.86 GPA.

Why did you want to be a physical therapist?

Growing up I knew I wanted to work in healthcare, but I didn’t want to go to school long enough to be a medical Doctor and I couldn’t ever make it as a nurse. I wanted a stable career that involved making a difference in peoples lives. I played softball and saw a lot of injuries and recoveries and was always fascinated by how the human body recovers and adapts to demands. I didn’t know what I wanted to do going into college, but figured it out in my first year.

What tips do you have for getting the most out of a clinical experience?

I have a lot to say about this question because my outpatient experience wasn’t the most educational, and I felt more like a glorified aide. I definitely wish I wasn’t quiet and expressed what I wanted/needed to learn! I had three clinicals total, one in the ICU with an early mobility team, one in a busy outpatient clinic, and one in inpatient rehab.

The safest way to have an ideal clinical is to know who your clinical instructor is. They will make or break your experience. It’s a gamble to take a new clinical location, but if it’s your ideal setting then go for it! I would highly recommend discussing your goals with your CI on the first day of your rotation. Tell them what you want to see/ treat, how they expect you to build your schedule, how many evals will you have, etc.

What do you do as a physical therapist to help your patients?

I’ll try to keep this short and to the point. I evaluate patients to determine why they’re in pain then come up with a treatment plan to improve their tolerance to functional tasks. Treatments in my setting can include progressive exercise to correct muscle imbalances, education to prevent re-injury, body mechanics, manual therapy, balance training, pain management, and more. I think education is one of the most important roles of a PT!

Things I typically treat as a physical therapist: rehab before and after surgery, pain in the body, including low back pain – I feel like some people don’t realize chiropractors aren’t the only specialist for the spine. I also treat people who aren’t in pain, like adults with balance problems and deconditioning.

Advice for anyone wanting to get into PT school?

You have to have the grades and test scores to get your application even looked at. Schools get thousands of applications so they have a filtering system to narrow down the applicants based on GPA, your prerequisite GPA (the science scores they really care about), and GRE scores. If you have to write an essay, I would try and make that stand out as much as possible with a personal story.

If you got an interview, I would say everyone there has an equal chance of getting picked. They look to see if your personality will fit the roles of a physical therapist and if you will get along with other classmates, etc. It’s very competitive, so if it’s what you want to do don’t give up! I have a friend that applied over 5 times and finally got into a school somewhere.

Is being a physical therapist what you expected it to be?

Yes and no. Yes with the fact that I expected to work in outpatient and see patients after surgeries and with pain.

No in the fact that it is more stressful than I expected. I read through protocols multiple times, sometimes worried I could mess up surgeries by doing something too quickly. Patients often show up at the wrong scheduled time and it throws off my time with other patients. And of course, there are more difficult patient personalities than I expected. Working with people is a blessing and a curse because some people are just crazy.. lol.

What setting do you work in?

I work in a hospital-based outpatient setting. I chose my first job based on the schedule demand, my supervisor mentorship, and location. My number one priority was to have a manageable schedule. Some outpatient clinics are very demanding and I knew I would burn out fast seeing more than 15 patients daily.

Do you treat adults, pediatrics, or both?

I mostly treat adults. Our clinic has a pediatric location, so I don’t typically see kids and teens, but I do get high schoolers from time to time. Typically I see mid-aged patients early morning and late afternoon, and mature adults late morning and early afternoon.

What is your favorite and least favorite thing about your job?

My favorite thing is when patients tell me they’re able to do things they weren’t able to before they came to see me.

My least favorite things about being a PT: The amount of documentation for each patient, having patients who don’t want to get better and just want medication or surgery to “fix the problem.”

What’s the craziest injury you’ve had to work with?

I have a patient I was treating go with an undiagnosed broken humeral head for months. I’m talking, completely separated and dislocated anteriorly, and has since had an injury to her brachial plexus.

I’ve also had a patient present with abnormal signs (aka it seemed like spinal cord compression) and I had her hold on therapy until she went back to the doctor and she ended up having emergency spinal cord surgery.

What does a normal day look like for you?

I think I will do a full post on this later this month!

When did you decide to become a blogger?

I started my blog on Christmas break during my first year of PT school. It’s something I thought about for a while but was scared to put myself out there. I’m so glad I did because I love using my creative side as a stress outlet. I really just threw my blog together in a day, named it the first thing I thought of, and googled everything from simple coding to making collages. It’s been just a hobby up until this year.

How do you balance both blogging and working full-time as a physical therapist?

I plan to do a whole post dedicated to this in the New Year. I honestly don’t think I’m the best at balancing both, because I spend all my free time outside of work on my blog. It’s been a big year of growth for my blog and now Youtube channel since putting in more time, but it didn’t necessarily come without a cost to my personal life. I give it my free time because I truly do love it, so it’s hard to notice when I need to take a step back and relax.

Do you ever think you will leave physical therapy to go full-time with blogging/youtube?

If you asked me this up until last year, realistically I would have said no. However, this year made me start to seriously consider it. I will never quit PT fully, but I do see the potential for me to transition to blogging more and doing PT less if that makes any sense. There is a lot of flexibility in my career as far as working in more flexible fields like home health or as a contract PT. Do I see it happening in 2019? No. I want to continue my current grind to pay off my student loans and still have a lot of logistics to figure out with what blogging full-time would look like. It’s pretty scary to leave a secure job with a steady paycheck, tax withdraws, paid time off, 401K match, benefits, etc.

 

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I hope you enjoyed this Q&A about my job!

xo Amanda John

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