By Angela Wilson Pennisi, PT, MS, OCS
Many times in this column, I have reflected on and encouraged my fellow physical therapists in how fortunate we are to play such an important role in people’s lives. We help them return to independence, the activities they love, and teach them to be better body owners in ways that will benefit them and their families for years to come.
However, recently I was thinking of examples of how interacting with my patients has affected my own personal development. Very few careers will put you in contact with so many people, from every walk of life, in a situation that facilitates in-depth conversation and understanding of another’s perspective.
I remind myself of this when I interact with people who clearly have never been exposed to perspectives beyond their own and recognize that I have had a personal interaction with someone from the exact group they are either demonizing or praising. Being a physical therapist has led to an appreciation for the complexities in life that I could not have gained in many other ways outside my professional experience.
We have all treated patients in their eighties or nineties and recognize the difference a healthy lifestyle of physical activity across the lifespan makes in the quality of life at that age—which is a powerful influence on our own lifestyles. If only it were easier to communicate this reality to others in our lives who are resistant to adopting the health habits we teach every day!
As a physical therapist, I have worked with accomplished leaders who affected my perception of what I could accomplish in life. I have observed every variation of “how to balance work and family,” which provided me with a clearer view of how I wanted to answer that question. In my early years, I also took no shame in bouncing a business question off the unsuspecting executive while he or she was on the treatment table, adding to my business acumen one shoulder or knee injury at a time.
Finally, I also remember some of the school kids I cared for in the Bronx after I graduated from physical therapy school and the multitude of resource-based and physical challenges they faced, along with those patients whom I could not help and others who have passed away. We continue to carry all of them with us, each patient contributing to the health care professionals and people we have become.
Perhaps today is a good day to not only thank your patients for their business, but for what they add to your practice and your life.