Spring is in the air. I've mowed my yard a few times already, planted (and maybe accidentally killed off) some seedlings, and enjoyed watching the trees get greener by the minute. With all this, I want to share with you a little more about my own personal growth as a physical therapist.
I always knew I wanted to help other people, and I thought I was going to be a doctor. Maybe even a surgeon. And to be honest, that was the plan until I took a little 1-credit course in the second semester of my first year at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities called "Intro to Physical Therapy." I don't really remember why I registered for it, but I do know that after my first year, I didn't have a Plan B - I was all in on the pre-PT track.
I took all the classes, studied and sat the GRE and applied to a few DPT programs. I got an interview at one of the places I applied to but ultimately, I didn't get in to any of the programs. Wash, rinse, repeat annually for two more years.
Being denied is HARD. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I knew I'd be good at it, but my science GPA didn't cut it. Self doubt and honestly, depression set in. I spent three years retaking some of the undergrad classes I hadn't done that well in, I took a part time job as a PT Aide in a local clinic (as well as at a coffee shop and a restaurant), and started coaching club swimming. I filled my days with work and crashed at night. I probably spent some time with my family and friends from home, but I missed being in Minneapolis and I pined to find my place as a Physical Therapist in the world.
The good news is, I loved the time I was in the clinic as an aide - not the work so much, as being an Aide isn't exactly challenging, but connecting with patients and learning from the PTs and staff there. I learned all kinds of 'soft skills': teamwork in a work place (versus sport setting), time management, problem solving in the clinic and most importantly, how to communicate with patients. I knew for a fact that this is what I wanted to do, and I persisted through this challenging stretch.
When I was finally accepted into the DPT Class of 2012 at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, I quickly learned, that PT school was by far more challenging than anything that I'd done up to that point, and I'd have to actually study. With the guidance and support of my friends in the program (my now best friends), I made it through and passed the boards.
As I've mentioned previously, I started my career working for a large system in Janesville, they was able to transition to a private practice closer to home. This is where the real growth started. Being a PT is great. Having how I treat as a PT dictated to me by insurance companies, productivity standards or based on reimbursement is NOT great. I knew that I was a good clinician, and that I was really good at building good relationships with my patients and getting them to trust my process and plans for them. But I became frustrated by the limitations that were ultimately driven by insurance reimbursement rates. This is in no way the fault of the patients, but at the end of the day, the care that the patients are getting could be better. The intricacies of all the ways the current healthcare system is failing the average American are well documented and I don't intend to delve into them here. The moral of the story is: I knew I could do better. For myself, for my clients, for Physical Therapy as a profession.
Enter quitting a full time, consistent stable job with benefits and trying to navigate my way through (a completely bogus, unnecessary and ridiculous 🙄) non-compete clause. Enter a lock down due to COVID-19 while working a job in another state as a travel PT. Enter getting furloughed from said job and still not being done with a non-compete but having no real options but to move home.
No pity parties here. I was able to work full time at the pool that I coach at in the summer which helped me mentally sort out where I was coming from and where I wanted to go. Also, despite the pandemic and all those associated tragedies, I love being at the pool. How can you be mad about spending your days outside? I was able to read a lot, listen to a ton of podcasts, and figure out the pieces I needed to have put together to start my own cash-based, direct access physical therapy practice.
The benefits for me are obvious, I can set my own schedule, continue coaching and be my own boss. The benefits for my clients, though, are what drive me. Imagine one-on-one care for an hour every time, with a provider who takes the time to LISTEN to you. Imagine individualized care, keeping YOUR goals in mind - whether it's through hiking the Appalachian Trail, running your first marathon, or getting down on the floor to play with your kids and not worrying about getting up again. Imagine one visit a week instead of three because insurance standards don't dictate what your care should be. Imagine direct access care with 100% transparency in regards to what you're paying for. This is care the way it should be.
Streamline Physical Therapy just surpassed the 6-month anniversary of its opening. This is the first of (hopefully) many milestones, and in reflecting over the last year, with all of its trials and tribulations, I'm proud of how far I've come. Growth comes from pushing yourself outside your comfort zone; from refusing to get stagnant and pushing forward, whatever the external circumstances. Through trying times and times of doubt, keeping your eye on your goals and values and always looking to better yourself.
Here's to this season of growth! We at Streamline Physical Therapy are looking onward and upward!
(*Pictured with me is Mick Murphy, a great friend from physical therapy school at the UW.)