We need to change physical therapy

3 Ugly Truths We NEED to Change about Physical Therapy

In All, Medicine by Ben

I know, I know… I’m usually so positive! Well, if I’m doing my job right, this post is going to be calling out some ugly aspects of our profession that we all know exist — whether we say it out loud or not. And, more importantly, it’ll be offering solutions on how we can change these aspects into a better future, together.

Here are…!


3 Ugly Truths We NEED to Change about Physical Therapy


1. The Culture.
The history of physical therapy in the United States ultimately stems from physical rehabilitation nursing. As such, infused into the genetic code of our professional culture is that which anthropologically regards physician as boss, head, authority, and otherwise law. While both the nursing and physical therapy professions have since claimed growth and ownership beyond such a culture, remnants remain. For this reason, we see oddities such as DPTs in certain companies, settings, and organizations cornered to feel as if they are best to hide in their proverbial doctoral closet. In the far other sway of this cultural continuum, there are other environments where clinic owners practically demand that their DPTs are only regarded as “doctors.” Regardless of how we may emotionally regard the roots of our culture, it is silly not to at the very least acknowledge the origin story of physical therapy as we know it.

“Where you start is not as important as where you finish.” — Zig Ziglar.

Now, while I’ll suggest that a profession is never finished becoming more; we can glean from this truth that we can change the culture of physical therapy for the better by being, in concert and in unison, dedicated to grow beyond our origin story. After all, Luke Skywalker eventually became a Jedi. Physical Therapists have a duty to their customers to do the same — to come into their own through nothing short of full ownership and taking command of our destiny… that we are the first and best choice for all things related to physical health, the movement system, and physical rehabilitation.

2. The Mindset.
Traditionally, the physical therapy mindset is very much that of a 9-5 hourly employee. Value is driven by mere presence of time, rather than what is delivered or delivered during a window of time. We are, historically, of a mindset of “working for” rather than “ownership.” After all, once we clock out… it’s not our problem.

While it may be true that in many settings and situations that our formal disposition is that of an “employee,” we are talking about mindset — moving beyond even thoughts of salary and into that of a business owner or an ambassador of a professional brand. The mindset that every colleague is & has a prime opportunity to represent the profession at its utmost; demonstrating our worth through value based means rather than that of an exempt or non-exempt employment status.

The solution here is to take up the mantle of a mindset which will settle for nothing less than absolute control of our destiny and the future of how we can best serve our consumers. The only way to do this is to thoroughly and completely discard any hint of a victims mentality who “works for,” is bound to “how things are,” or are “powerless” to incite change.

Mindset is the origin of action. And, to change our profession, we must have the right mindset.

3. The Aversion.
Physical Therapists are, by nature, a conservative, cautious, and risk averse group of people. By definition, our roles in healthcare are that of conservative care. For the most part, our mentality is that less is more. While this is generally a good thing, we have taken that to an extreme in almost all areas to where we’ve developed an aversion to business, management, risk, gain, growth, and… even an aversion to profit, to the point that a certain culture of poverty remains more attractive than that of making good money!

Our focus, is overwhelmingly and quite narrowly on clinical excellence. However, it has been said far more than once that “best practice” is indeed “standard practice.” After all, there is only so much out there that is truly efficacious. We are discovering time and time again that the less complicated the intervention, the more thorough the clinical effect. Complex mechanisms of recovery tend to be more story and less science. Therefore, we should focus our tireless efforts, not on more clinical influences. Our focus should be on the expansive opportunities we have yet to truly explore.

Physical Therapists have so much room to grow economically, politically, legislatively, administratively, socially, corporately, entrepreneurially, and beyond!


The ugly truth it this: We are averse to a great many things because we have spent so much time focused on all things clinical. After all, it is rare that a DPT program covers anything but basic business principles outside of clinical didactics. While this is quickly improving, imagine the possibilities should an entire generation of PTs rise with a deeper appreciation for all the areas of opportunities available to us as a profession.

These ugly truths that we can change starts with acknowledging the hindrances for our origin story. They aren’t good. They aren’t bad. They just “are.”

After all, we may not have had a choice on how we began. But, we certainly have a choice on how we move forward.

It is here we begin anew with a emboldened mindset. An action oriented mindset. A mindset that wishes for more than just a 9-5 mentality. A mindset that craves constant improvement, expansion, growth, and a broad social impact. Finally, with a strong mindset in place, we can en masse, defeat the aversions we have so long seen engrained in our culture. We are already seeing young leaders breach these walls into legal, political, economical, social, and entrepreneurial fields of play. We need more of this! We need all of this! And, it is through this that we shall, together — forge a new path having changed ugly truths into captured opportunities of a unified future.

Our future is in being united. United in mindset. United in brand. And, most of all, united in purpose.

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