What makes a good physical therapist? Is it the schooling one has to go through to become certified? Or does being a successful physical therapist rely more on personality traits and values one holds? My goal in this paper was to find the truth behind what makes a good physical therapist by interviewing actual physical therapists and reading academic journals and studies to see what others have said about this subject. Currently to become a physical therapist, one has to go through almost eight years of schooling: four for an undergrad and another four for PT school (Jette).
When I interviewed Jimmy Phillips, a practicing physical therapist in Murfreesboro, I asked him how important college really was for a physical therapist. Jimmy responded “college is important for any craft, especially physical therapy. You can’t be a PT without knowing the human body well. Without a proper education I wouldn’t even know what treatments and exercises I’d do with my patients, so it is very important. ” (Jimmy).
This told me that being well educated and learning everything one can about the body was one of the keys to being a good physical therapist, but Jimmy informed me there were other things a physical therapist needed as well. “What you also need to know is how to apply your knowledge. Even if I knew everything about muscles, tendons, ligaments, and the such it’d be of no use to me if I didn’t know how to work well with my patients. ” Said Jimmy. I asked him how you could work well with your patients and if there were any traits or characteristics that made working well with patients easier, such as being an extrovert.
Jimmy agreed that being an extrovert helps one be a good PT and said “Being able to talk with your patients and have a 1 on 1 conversation with them is a critical aspect of this job”. A case study titled Exploring physiotherapists’ personality traits that may influence treatment outcome in patients with chronic diseases: a cohort study (Buining) went in depth to see if being extroverted, as Jimmy mentioned, could make the treatment for the patient better. This study chose patients that have chronic diseases as these are typically more intense interactions between the therapist and patient.
In the end they found that more extroverted physical therapists had better sessions with their patients, and their patients recovered faster and felt better from their treatment. If it’s possible for certain treatments to be better if the therapist has a certain personality type, then having that personality type makes them a better physical therapist. However, it is possible for one to be an introvert and succeed as a physical therapist, but it’s generally regarded that it’s an easier profession to get into as an extrovert.
After establishing that a good therapist must be educated and that being extroverted helps as well, I questioned what other traits could lead to being a good PT. Qualities That make a Successful Physical Therapist Assistant is an article from the website PTAguide. org where Physical Therapists and those who are looking into it as a career ask questions and discuss hot topics of the field. (Ptaguide) The specific article I chose off of their website is about the personality qualities required to be a Physical Therapist Assistant.
Although this is for assistants, I believe it carries over very well to actual physical therapists. This article talks about how a PTA should have a professional and caring mindset, while being able to work with others, be patient, and pay attention to detail. Jimmy agreed with this and said “Patience should be taught as well as how to properly explain something to someone, like an exercise”. Other qualities such as being professional and humble were also mentioned.
Even Jimmy’s wife Christie Phillips, who is also a physical therapist, mentioned being humble as a needed attribute to be successful. She went on to say “You don’t want to try and brag to your patients, or those you work with, about how much you know because you most likely don’t know everything you think you do. (Christie) Another trait is to learn well from others, such as watching another physical therapist use a tactic or perform a stretch and be able to replicate later”. I took note of when she said another trait is to learn well from others and to have the ability to learn on the job.
There are certain things that aren’t taught in depth in college for a future PT such as how to act with a patient and explain certain topics to them. In fact, there are multiple aspects about being a physical therapist not taught in college that many believe should be taught. In the case study titled Physical Therapy, clinical instructors attempted to observe their students and their behaviors in this study to see if they had the necessary characteristics, mindset, and skills necessary for safe physical therapy services.
They had questionnaires and interviews of the students, and then classified the behaviors into categories such as poor communication, poor knowledge, and unprofessional. These specific behaviors were looked into as the clinical instructors determined that these were necessary to succeed as a physical therapist. This study makes sense, as how could one be a good physical therapist if he or she is unable to properly communicate to a patient what needs to be done in order for him or her to recover? Communication also ties in with how well you may work with your peers, and what you are able to learn from them.
As Christie mentioned, being able to learn from your peers to better yourself is very important in physical therapy because you won’t know everything no matter how much schooling you go through. So is being knowledgeable and having a good communication skill all that’s required to be a good physical therapist? In a nut shell, yes. Through this research and my interviews I’ve determined that to be a good physical therapist it boils down to two simple things: working well with people and being well educated in the field.
However, it isn’t as simple as it may seem as working well with others isn’t always the easiest thing. It can take a lot of things to work well with others, such as being professional, having good communication skills, being extroverted, and having the right personality type. (Professionalism & Core Values) So if having these traits would help one become a better physical therapist why wouldn’t we teach future physical therapists these so they could work well with others and succeed?
The actual science behind the body is typically the only concept taught in schooling to make sure the students can properly diagnose and treat their patients after they begin practice. This is only one of the two keys to be a good physical therapist though, so why is only one being taught? When I asked Jimmy about his experience in college and what was taught he mentioned that it was much more focused on building up his knowledge and making sure he could diagnose injuries properly with only little to no focus on patient and therapist interactions. Jimmy)
I believe that we should begin teaching students who plan to be physical therapists on how to work well in others, as evidence shows that working well with others makes one a better physical therapist. (Hayes) Another study done by Linda Resnik and Gail Jensin titled Using clinical outcomes to explore the theory of expert practice in physical therapy to see why certain “experts” had the reputation that they did and if any specific traits lead to it. They also interviewed and studied some “average” physical therapists to see if there were any behavioral traits they were missing that the experts had.
There were six experts and six average physical therapists that were all interviewed and surveyed and the results were collected. The findings show that the “experts” were much more likely to call themselves extroverts and have a higher commitment to professional growth than those who were considered average. Experts also tended to have better utilization of colleagues and pattern of delegation of car to support staff, both signs of being able to work well with others. Being an extrovert, patient, humble, and having good communication skills are all traits one needs to work well with others. Hayes)
This is especially true for physical therapists as they are constantly working with someone, rather it be a patient or a colleague. This isn’t the only attribute one needs to be a good physical therapist however, one must also be well educated over the human body and able to diagnose injuries. Both of these are critical elements in being able to not only work well with your patients, but be sure that they get the most out of a therapy session (D. U). It’s for this reason I believe that all good physical therapists must have a good base knowledge over their field and be able to work well with others.