Becoming the Best Therapist You Can Be

physical therapist helping a patient exercise

If you’re just starting your physical or occupational therapy career, one thing is inevitable: You’re going to get a lot of advice from different people. Not all of it is useful, but these five tips certainly are. Keep these tips in mind to become the best therapist you can be:

1. Learn the Business – Literally

Odds are you’re interested in the field because you want to help people – we all do. But you should also keep in mind that there’s an entire business side to things. While you may be an expert in helping people get back to what moves them, considerations like business metrics, marketing, and similar topics might be unfamiliar. Learn the inner workings of your clinic, and watch even more doors open for your career.

2. Be Respectful to Be Respected

Approach every interaction – with a patient, another therapist, or anyone really – as a learning opportunity. As a physical or occupational therapist, you want others to trust you, and building that trust starts with treating others the way you would want to be treated.

3. Make Sure Your Patients Really Understand You

When treating your patients, you want to ensure they know the “why” behind your recommendations. Talk to them on their level – try to avoid medical jargon and complicated terms that can go over the average person’s head. By helping your clients better understand their care plan and how to get back to what moves them, you’re likelier to see better outcomes.

4. Listen. Listen. Listen.

As a therapist, you want to help your patients get back to 100 percent. Once you hear their initial complaint, your mind might start racing toward a certain protocol, procedure, or treatment. Remember these three words: Take it slow. Listen to all your patient’s concerns so you have a “big picture” view of the situation. Your patient will appreciate having the floor to themselves.

5. Branch Out a Little

We tend to stay within our own bubbles – socially and otherwise. But it’s important to remember that there’s a world of information out there and that outside perspectives can provide valuable insight. Reach out to colleagues in other fields and pick their brains; while they might not be able to provide direct clinical knowledge, they can broaden your knowledge in terms of business practices and other relevant information that could be applied in your life and profession.

Bonus Tip: Get Involved

Don’t just clock in and clock out every day. Become passionate about your career through community involvement. Look for a local therapist peer group you can join. Find a professional association that you can become a part of. By getting more involved in other industry groups outside of your employer, you’ll become even more well-rounded and better equipped to deliver optimal patient outcomes.