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It’s a Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood

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Mr. Rogers and developing relationships.

By Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?” —Fred Rogers

Fred Rogers had some great advice not only for children, but for those who own or operate a business. The importance of building relationships has become increasingly more important in this everchanging world of private practice physical therapy. In this month’s column, the Marketing and Public Relations (PR) Committee would like to highlight some of the ideas of Fred Rogers and why his vision may have significant meaning for our practices.

“There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” —Fred Rogers

Most physical therapists I know entered the field because they were passionate about helping people. As we move from staff physical therapist to manager to owner, our interactions with patients may decrease and we find ourselves in meetings and conversations with a wide variety of individuals. Your day may be made up of interactions with insurance companies, vendors, legislators, human resources directors, and other business owners. Just as it is important to develop relationships with our patients, it is equally critical to our success to do the same with all these other contacts. As Mr. Rogers points out, showing others kindness is the way to success. In fact, thinking about the qualities you use to engage and empower your patients is an excellent way to develop relationships with your other contacts. Let’s look at a few areas:

Interest
The first job in our evaluation process is obtaining the patient history. While we ask for information on date and mechanism of injury, it is important to understand the patient’s activities and their goals. The more we recognize the desires and objectives of our patients, the better equipped we are to assist them. This same aspiration should hold true when we develop relationships with our other “neighbors” in our health care and business community. Understanding the needs of others is a crucial step and relaying that perception is a great way to build a relationship.

Education/Expertise
Physical therapists have an expertise in health care and wellness and our patients look to us for answers that will assist them back to full function. Many of our “neighbors” are also looking for answers, many that we may be able to provide. As health care costs soar, employers, legislators, and third-party payers are looking for ways to decrease expenses and improve the bottom line. As research continues to demonstrate the cost-saving value of physical therapy, the relationships we develop with the individuals in control of the dollars are critical. It is imperative that they understand our expertise and our contribution to their goals.

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Motivation
Our patients must understand that, while we are here to help guide them back to health, it is ultimately the hard work that they put in, both in the clinic and on their own, that will complete the job. Motivation plays a critical role throughout the rehabilitation process and extends to relationship building throughout your community network. When motivating others to continue a course of action or inspiring different groups to work together for a common cause, our energy and our passion demonstrate our commitment to those relationships.

Hard Work
Practicing physical therapy is incredibly rewarding, but few physical therapists would say that our job is easy. The initial education process, as well as keeping up with the changes in the field, makes us lifetime learners. The ever-increasing burden of paperwork further impacts the amount of time we spend on work activities. It is important to carry this work ethic on as we build our relationships. Just like a marriage, relationships require work and can fall apart without effort. There may be times when you feel like the work on the relationship is all one sided. For those times remember this Mr. Rogers quote, “I hope you’re proud of yourself for the times you’ve said ‘yes’ when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly only helpful to someone else.” When we do for others without always concentrating on the return, our relationships will strengthen.

Relationship building is critical in the success of not only our own businesses, but also in the health of our profession. The time and energy we put into our connections and community partners will have long-lasting, positive effects. Remember, don’t disappoint Mr. Rogers. 

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Don Levine, PT, DPT, FAFS, is chair of the marketing and PR committee and co-owner of Olympic Physical Therapy with five locations in Rhode Island. He can be reached at dlevine@olympicpt-ri.com.