Joined: April 26, 2002
I burned out fairly quickly in full time physio. I'm not sure if taking a whole bunch of cont ed courses contributed or helped.
Now I work only part time and I enjoy it much more. The rest of my time is spent doing research in grad school. I work a lot harder than I did in clinical practice but I enjoy it a lot more and don't feel like I am getting burned out at all.
While Marc considers himself an educator, I believe that I will consider myself more as a researcher when I finally get a real job. I really enjoy teaching and part time clinical practice but if I could only do one thing it would be research.
Joined: December 1, 2004
Interesting topic. I agree with ianwvu that most people who read and post here are probably PT "geeks"! So, it's not an unbiased survery, but a good one nonetheless. For me, it's all about finding balance and being really good at something (at least one thing) in my life. I've always loved teaching, and from a very early age, I was teaching other kids and my siblings and I worshipped my teachers. So, that's one aspect of my job I enjoy. I also love problem-solving and, like Dr. House, can't resist a puzzle. Sometimes I annoy my coworkers because I'm always "thinking" about some PT problem, I'm not too interested in small talk. I also like being creative and PT offers a lot of daily opportunities for that.
I've only been working for 4 1/2 years...in outpatient ortho, and I started burning out 3 years ago! It's tough for me not to put 150% into my job. I've had to find balance by cultivating other interests and relationships. I decided to pursue a DScPT degree to fight burnout and continue challenging myself. Now, I've come full circle back to teaching, and I feel very fulfilled as a teaching assistant. My goal is to be a professor in a PT program in the next couple years, but I will still keep some clinical hours, so I don't get out of touch with clinical realities.
I am starting to agree with SJ, that the interpersonal politics of the work environment are sometimes one of the worst things about PT. The paperwork is horrible. The hours in outpatient ortho are grueling at times (12 hour days), but the patients are the best part. Yes, I get annoyed with them sometimes, especially when they don't want to listen, but I just view it as another challenge, and I change my approach. That's what a good teacher does. Dealing with insurance companies and not having direct access is starting to wear on me lately too. I'm tired of being told what to do when, and think maybe I should've gone to medical school, but then I think, they don't really have that much autonomy anymore either. Maybe I should move to Canada or Oz! Overall, PT fits very well with my personality and priorities. I didn't choose this path until later on either, and I think having some other real-world experience is a huge benefit. Sarah
Joined: December 2, 2004
I?ve been a PT for 22 years. I still, after all these years love my job. You definitely have to enjoy people, and be willing to accept all kinds (patients and co-workers). Every patient presents with a slightly different problem or personality and it is the tailoring of plans to each individual I find rewarding. I imagine one might become burned out if they treat everyone with the same approach or have such a high volume that they run folks through. I truly find the relationships rewarding. Of all medical fields, I think we are one of the few with the opportunity to spend so much time interacting with an individual patient.
I don?t mind the paper work all that much either. I try to keep up as I go which helps at the end of the day. I think one key to avoiding burn out is to NEVER take paperwork home. I may have once or twice in 22 years and I think this has served me well. Apart from reading professional books/journals and thinking about a difficult patient in the morning shower, I leave work at work.
One thing I dislike about the job is being indoors. If I were 19 again, I may follow my heart which was to be a park ranger. My father discouraged me, saying that there were no jobs and no money. He was right. One of the great things about PT is that there are jobs and the flexibility to work part time and make decent money. However, now and again on a beautiful day when my co-worker finds me staring longingly out the window, she?ll quietly say in my ear ?You should have been a ranger?.
I don?t find myself too stressed at work, but occasionally my soul grows weary from the heaviness of dealing with suffering people. This is usually when I have one or two particularly difficult cases that are not responding as I?d hoped. Once in a while, I feel like I?d like a job with minimal responsibility- like arranging the veggies in the produce department.
The only other thing I don?t care for is the push for productivity. Healthcare has changed a ton in the last 20 years. When I began, money was plentiful and there was time and support for what ever care was needed (and then some?). I realize this push is necessary for survival in the current climate, but seeing healthcare evolving more into a ?business?(focus on bottom line) verses a ?service? (focus on quality care) profession is difficult for me.
As far as negative and gossipy co-workers, I?ve seen it in men as well. I think you?ll find it in any group of people (especially if not managed well). It is possible (though it may take great self control and humility) to ignore it all, stay out of the fray, and focus on what is important- your patients.
Joined: December 20, 2006
Wow, the number of quality responses you guys have posted has been extremely beneficial. I really do appreciate you taking the time out of your day to help me out. I really want to be a PT, and I want to enjoy doing it. Some of the suggestions yall have made should help me reach that goal. Everybody have a great christmas!
Joined: October 24, 2006
From: New York
I do not share good feelings about my job and profession, and I've been struggling with it for some time now. In fact, I found this forum while surfing the net in search of a discussion with other PT's who perhaps share my view (instead I found a bunch of really smart ones who seem quite into it).
PT was my 3rd career exploration after college, and one that I've been doing the longest (9 years). I began at age 25 as an aide and really liked it, mostly b/c I think it validated me as a person. I was a rather emotionally immature 25 year old, and working with patients and health care professionals helped me develop the self confidence that I lacked most of my life, and I think I got hooked on THAT, as opposed to the profession itself. It only took me 9 months into my first job to get "burned out" - I became very aware and sensitive to my fit in the profession early on because it was only weeks into my first job when I began to ask myself "so this is IT?" I had just busted my ass and exercised my brain majorly at a renowned PT program, got a job at a renowned rehabilitation hospital, and the job itself was mundane. So much of what I learned in school went unrecalled. Success was difficult to measure for me. So, I did what I think a lot of PT's do: I internalized that perception and read it as a deficiency on my part - I thought that I must be missing out on some sort of knowledge or technique, so I hit the continuing education circuit hard for several years. Instead of easing my troubled mind it made things worse. I realized that there was very little new, innovative, or helpful information to be gleaned despite the claims made by the instructors. I got annoyed at clinicians many years my senior who lacked critical thinking about what was being taught at some courses. I got pissed off that world renowned innovators in patellar taping and neuro-mobilisation had the gall to expend MY time and dollars over the course of 3-4 days disseminating information that could have been compressed into one single afternoon. Despite employing these "new" skills, I did not see much of a difference in my patients getting better any faster.
I am also disgusted with the financial picture of PT. I live in a tremendously high cost of living area (Westchester County, NY) and have witnessed the struggle of PT's to make here it my whole career. Most of the ones who have have been the spouses of Wall-Streeters, MD's or other appropriately paid professionals. Any new grad considering living within 60 miles of a workplace here needs to give up on a substantial portion of the American Dream. This is no personal bitterness on my part, either. My wife is also a PT, we got very lucky here in the late 90's with real estate and hopefully, we'll be able to stay ($10,000+ in taxes is concerning, though). PT is supposed to be an important job -we're now doctors - the poorest ones around.
My personal inability to grasp or accept the Gestalt of PT aside, I have come to an understanding that now, for me, the most UN appealing part of the job of PT is it's essence -the patients. I simply cannot stand dealing with and treating patients day after day. I do not find it rewarding. I no longer have the self-validation driven need to help others and feed off of that feedback. Especially now that I have two young children - every patient that selfishly (my perception) arrives late, keeps me late, does not follow thru with programming so I must review/reinforce repeatedly, takes from me patience and time that I should be applying towards my family (the stupid thing is there are not that many of these patients). I do not find treating patients a challenge - my mind needs something more.
All this is despite a career that I feel I controlled completely. I have worked with every type of patient at every level of rehab, with the exception of peds. I have sought out and obtained advencement without difficulty. I have held supervisory and director positions in several different settings. I have a good reputation as a competent PT, manager, and leader. I have had a good and by all accounts, successful career in the clinic. I have more than tripled my entry level salary, and I will earn more next year. I am the sole bread winner for my family, and things are tight (maybe a little bitterness). I deal with people daily who are, simply stated, stupider, less honest, and more hypocritical than most of the PT's I went to school with or have ever worked with yet earn many times more and have comfortable lifestyles (yes, bitterness). It is ridiculous.
Doug and others - This is an exceedingly negative post. It has been cathartic for me as I have not expressed myself in this way regarding this topic, ever. I appreciate the forum to do so, maybe it will help me sort things out. Thank you for listening.
Doug: You are a young man. You may want to support a family someday. You will become a new PT with (perhaps) gobs of debt that will follow you for years. Despite the toutings of direct access and DPT, the financial rewards of the profession are and will be mediocre for most. You must consider these things.
Grant - why stop chasing the $$? Forget the "wave". There is no wave. You have already done some jobs that have of the core components of PT - teaching/coaching, training. What about PT will bring you the satisfaction those jobs did not?
DPT - a financial nighmare for PT's tDPT - guaranteed negative return on investment Both noble ideas, though.
Ed, sounds like you've got alot going on there. Hope you get it straightened out. Yet, your points/experience is sobering and I'm glad you brought them to light. I know there are alot of factors that comprise the happiness quotient for folks. And as it relates to this aspect of PT, one thing I've discovered over months of perusing this board are the geographical differences in PT salary and lifestyle. Being in Westchester Co, from what I hear about it, would be a tough row to hoe unless you are a hedge fund manager. However, in Knoxville, a starting PT will make at least $45k, which is about what a teacher with a master's and 20 yrs experience will make, and not many make it that long. An established trainer with a solid client base might make a little more. A 3200 sq ft, 4 bed, 2.5 bath, 10 yr old brick home on 0.5 acres will run $235k. With a spouse working part or full-time (which most do these days, especially once the kids start school), that is a nice lifestyle. Way above the average. 5 semesters of PT school will cost me about $15k. So, I think alot of all this is circumstantial. Everyone's situation is a little different, and therein lies the rub.
Joined: November 19, 2006
I have mixed feelings on my satisfaction in becoming a PT. I am 29 and in my 2nd year of practice after receiving my DPT degree from a private university.
The satisfaction I get from interacting with most of my patients and hearing the functional improvements they achieve is very rewarding. But making payments on my $120K+ educational debt, and seeing my private loan interest rates climb is very frustrating to me, especially with the salary we receive as PTs.
This has made it difficult to imagine my wife and I owning a decent home and starting a family in the immediate future, as we live in Southern California (with the outrageous home prices). A 2-3 bedroom condo in a nice area sells at $450-550K.
As one poster stated, I also thought "is this it?" once I started working, but I do find excitement in improving my skills to provide greater patient outcomes.
I pondered medical school while in PT school and recently while working. But will forego assumming additional educational debt and avoid preventing my wife and her current, promising career potentials in pharmeceutical clinical research.
Overall I would definitely recommend interested students to pursue the PT profession, but I would surely always consider the potential financial burden of receiving the DPT at a private university.
Joined: October 27, 2002
From: New York, NY
This may sound funny but I am really glad that people feel free to share their negative views of the profession. We actually need more of them to come forward. If we are to grow as a field, dissatisfaction has to be out there, front and center, so that we can look at ways of improving things. I think that PTs feel too much pressure to be "good" and "positive" people. It doesn't always work out like that. Pressure to be positive in the face of frustration will only hasten the path to burnout. I have certainly had my share of frustrating moments/periods as a PT. And the debt required for DPT education is certainly an issue.
That having been said, some, although certainly not all of what you are experiencing is typical of work today. More education and debt are required than ever before for even entry level jobs. DPT at a private school? Try four years of undergraduate education at a private school (I went to public). Six figure debt with only entry level prospects to start. What about a 3 year MFA program? What about schools that churn out PhDs in humanities. 10 year commitments that culminate in job searches where you compete with 100s of other PhDs for for one job.
None of this minimizes what you are experiencing. You have highlighted some very real issues. But...if you are creative, there are ways to make more money, to do something else, to use your skills in unforseen ways, etc. I know colleagues who work in the insurance industry, health care business, teach, own practices, do consulting, etc. The degree is less limiting than you think.
Of course this puts me back on my soapbox about DPT education in general. I think if we are asking students to attend and pay for three years, then it should have enough general content to broaden options when they graduate. More research, more statistics, more administration. These would help more than a class in advanced joint mobilization. The degree should get broader, not more specialized.......
Joined: October 9, 2001
From: Pittsburgh, PA USA
I think mcap hits on a good point, in that there are lots of good things that can be done with the profession, and it's really up to the person as to what they truly want.
Our profession is stuck in a rut right now. Many want to be considered professionals, close to par with physicians. However, I am not sure if this will ever happen. Why? The nature of the person that gets drawn into PT.
Drawing on experience from running multiple clinics for years, and being around literrally hundreds of PT's, I find that most want 9-5 jobs, whine if they need to provide a few more hours, really spend no time learning anything more than what was taught to them in school, think that by hanging a sign outside their door saying "Bob's PT parlour" means patients will come in droves, and hoard everything they can. Managing physical therapists en scale was one of the most frustrating things I have ever done. When I was in retail management, I had high school kids that had better work ethic and attitude
I just spoke to a PT student about this the other day, and she indicated because of all that is required of a physician is why she chose to enter PT school instead. Our profession should not be the easy out for people that don't want to work hard.
PT's love to hoard things, and not share (this site being the exclusion). I was speaking with a spine surgeon pal the other day, and even though 1 mile up the road there is another spine surgeon (nee competitor), they still work on some surgeries together, share skills, and help each other out. I have seen numerous surgeons tell a patient " I think you need to go see _____ for that problem", either because it's out of their scope, or they can't figure out what is wrong. I have yet, in my 16 years of practice, to see this ever happen with PT. I have taken slack in the past for deferring treatment to children, amputees, plegia, and neuro patients to someone that would/could do a better job than I.
It's just really weird. But, those who have really succeeeded in PT are the ones that are not like this. They bust their butts, take care of people, and thrive. I'm rambling now, so time to finish some drywall.
John Duffy, PT OCS [URL=http://www.PTupdate.com]www.PTupdate.com[/URL]
John M. Duffy, PT Board Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist www.PTupdate.com
You may want to check out Hadler's book "The Last Well Person, reviewed [URL=http://trulynoted.typepad.com/truly_noted/2006/05/last_well_perso.html]here[/URL].
[QUOTE]Do you like your job? Are you valued at work? These two questions deserve a prominent place in the body politic and in whatever caring community life affords us. They should anchor a major public health initiative. Negative answers to these questions are associated with clinical morbidity and affect longevity even for those who could, if they wished, change their jobs.[/QUOTE]There are two levels in PT life, the "job" (the social construct surrounding the work) and the "work" (what you and a patient do when you're together, how you bring your training to the task).
Being told exactly what to do and how to do it gets old awfully fast. I always loved PT "work" but disliked all the "jobs" involved, even the "good" ones at "good" places with "good" patients. Having my own designer boutique cash practice is the only thing that has ever worked out in my case. I get to do my "work" without the need to put up with a "job". Funny how one's tolerance for "difficult" patients rises in almost exact inverse ratio to the decrease in stress from having severed oneself from "jobs" and all their attendant allostatic load...
PT (any sort of health care really) is perfect for people who don't want to be "poor" but who don't have any ambitions toward becoming rich. If you want to have a endlessly expansive lifestyle, don't pick health care of any sort; pick mortgage broking or real estate or something else involving sales. (And not expensive courses and gizmos to PTs, please.. :rolleyes: )
In the end, anything we do in life is some form or another of human primate social grooming, helping others in exchange for money. PT happens to be a lot closer to the real thing in that it's more physical/less symbolic. To me, this means it is more real. I wouldn't trade it for anything else at this point, after 35 years. It's like a really well-constructed marriage that has had its ups and downs (more ups than downs), has endured and has become very fulfilling. Good luck, Diane
John writes: >>>>>>Drawing on experience from running multiple clinics for years, and being around literrally hundreds of PT's, I find that most want 9-5 jobs, whine if they need to provide a few more hours, really spend no time learning anything more than what was taught to them in school, think that by hanging a sign outside their door saying "Bob's PT parlour" means patients will come in droves, and hoard everything they can. Managing physical therapists en scale was one of the most frustrating things I have ever done. When I was in retail management, I had high school kids that had better work ethic and attitude>>>>>>
You bring up some interesting points. From a students point of view .. I see many of my classmates as unrealistic and not in touch with reality at times. Many believe that they will be able to open thier own clinic .. have patients lining up to come to them and not only that but have other PTs lining up to do the work for them so that they don't even have to do much of the work and be swimming in money. They expect this without any real understanding of business.
Now I do believe from talking to other more experienced PTs that it is possible to make a good living and have a good lifestyle in PT but what many of my classmates do not see is that it is not quite that simple. They believe that everything will be easy and everyone will be happy working together, they dont have to worry about competition and working hard . Although I think the profession can be lucrative and can provide a good lifestyle down the road .. this comes with some hard work, luck and good business skills.
Joined: December 1, 2004
I think Ed brings up some very good points about the financial realities of PT. For people who are the main providers of families, it can certainly seem like a raw deal....a big discrepancy between the money involved in getting the education, and the salaries earned. But, like Diane said, and I tell my students, you don't go into PT for the money. I never wanted to be rich, just comfortable. In fact, I am the main bread winner in my family, but we are DINKs, so it's not that much of a burden. I live in one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S., and work in one of the wealthiest cities in the county, so I am definitely exposed to the other side of life, but I don't let it get to me. My patients can sometimes be very "high maintenance" in this area, but most are grateful and cooperative. I also could relate to Ed's statement about graduating, thinking "this is it?". I felt like I didn't know anything when I graduated, so I took multiple continuing ed courses too. I'm not sure if it was for validation, or just to feel like I could actually do a service for my patients, and not a disservice. Now, I'm rather choosy about Con Ed. The material has to have evidence behind it and be immediately clinically relevant. Needless to say, I haven't been to any courses in quite a while! Lastly, I agree with mcap, that the negatives about the profession need to be aired, so we can begin to change. Educators need to be in touch with the economic realities so that they can give students the necessary preparation to enter the field with realistic expectations. In PT school, we had a great course in PT administration taught by Peter Kovacek, where we had to design and form a business plan for our own clinic, including finding a real site to open it! It helped us see how difficult opening a clinic can be without the proper business background and planning.
Joined: October 9, 2001
From: Pittsburgh, PA USA
ONstudentPT555: I am not really sure where this attitude comes from. I am not sure it's from the schools, as guest lecturing at Duquesne University a few years back, I was chatting with one of the faculty that invited me as a guest lecturer..he asked how business was, and I indicated we had almost 80 people coming in that day. He insisted I tell the class this, as they were somehow in that dream world.
Don't most PT school hopefuls still volunteer to get hours? Are they not communicating with the PT's about what is going on? How about their clinical affiliations? Do they have blinders on and just can't see around them?
Personally, I always tried to hire PT's who have a work history....either digging trenches to get through high school and college, or were coal miners and then went back to PT school. Those are the ones that realize what everything takes. The ones that went through 7 years of school on Daddy's wallet never last long, at least around me.
Again, PT's can succeed and really make some good money...either working on their own, or for someone else. Playing their cards right, developing a clientele and thriving business will get rewarded. Quite a few PT's have become millionaires in this field, but for some reason, those who want more do not look at them as business models.
John Duffy, PT OCS [URL=http://www.PTUpdate.com]www.PTUpdate.com[/URL]
John M. Duffy, PT Board Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist www.PTupdate.com
I think this may stem from several things. I think a lot of it is that these students are just lacking the knowlege in terms of what it takes to build a business and just dont seem interested in finding out. The PT schools do an excellent job at preparing the students to be excellent clinicians but do a very poor job at advocating for the profession and in motivating students to be advocates for the profession and also do a poor job at teaching them about business. At least this is the case for the school I go to.
So it seems that although many students have great ambitions to own a lucrative and succesful business once they get out into the real world they realize this is not as easy as they thought and end up working at hospitals or for other clinics some which are not even owned and operated by PTs.
Another issue( although this is a generalization) is that the PT profession is still somewhat dominated by females(about 12 males and 50 females in my class to start) who may have less time to advocate for the profession and less time to focus on business aspects as some females have a lot of family responsibilities to deal with which understandably becomes the priority. I spoke to a PT who said that he and his other male PT friends showed up to a College meeting to help fight for an issue that was important to PTs and there was not one female who showed up to support them.
Another issue is that some old school PTs (although there are ofcourse exceptions) still hang on to the old school ways where the modalities and cook book exercises dominated the profession and they did not need strong diagnostic skills because physicians would be doing the diagnosis which leads to less autonomy. I Think this aspect will at least change as the new PTs will have at least a Masters Degree and have strong diagnostic and manual skills and as EBM becomes the norm in the rehab field PTs should be leading the way.
Joined: October 24, 2006
From: New York
John, your experience with PT's is very different than mine. I have found them to be nearly the complete opposite of what you describe - In my first few weeks as a new grad PT, I remember thinking how crazy so many of my co-workers were b/c it seemed all they did was PT - writing notes all day, getting in super early and staying late, PT books, PT talk, etc. I think many were such overachieving students that they needed to create makework at the job in order to stay in that comfort zone.
I have also managed non-PT employees, and find managing PT's a lot easier than the nons. PT's know what they need to do, they have a responsibility to the patient first, and I think that drives the behavior. They are also more receptive to constructive criticism and behavior correction. Currently I oversee a team of 12 PT/PTA/OT's and 6 support employees. The support is the worst - everything from language to dress to absenteeism to manners are recurring themes with them. They get emotional when corrected on blatantly innapropriate behavior. They use passive-aggression instead of approaching you with their issue. I'm sure others can relate.
YOU THINK MD'S, MORE SPECIFICALLY ORTHOPODS, ARE SHARING PEOPLE??? I personally have never met a more self-centered group in health care. I find them to be insecure at the core, fearful of litigation and thier own futures, and resentful that huge portions of what they personally generate in terms of revenue must be spent to staff an office, billing department, insurance, etc. I think that a lot of surgeons team on cases b/c it either requires two (especially spine) or one is saving face or otherwise hedging risk. They refer out cases they are not comfortable with to reduce their own risk,not to help a buddy out who's been slow.
Back to PT. I think I am in a place where I'm trying to figure out what it is I want - next. I have done a lot of different things as a PT - teaching, consulting, cash-based side business, coaching/athletic performance, private-pay homeys, program and clinic development for health care facilities. I've been out there.
I've never considered that my livelihood should be anything more than a means to an end. I never had to love my work, I just had to be good at it and create opportunities for myself, and I have done this as a PT. But I can see if someone has something in them that drives them to get into helpng at the level PT's do, it can be a satisfying long term career - I was there once, as that 25 year old aide, the excited and stimulated student, and new grad PT for a time. I must be getting more selfish with age or something. But like I said, I've reached my tolerance for the clinic and the BS that is health care.
Joined: June 12, 2004
From: Glendale, AZ
Don't forget that chicks dig PT's. That is of course until you come home after a 12 hr work day, and they say "honey, rub my neck" (for only the 5th time this week), and you say "no, I'm tired, and my hands hurt", and she says, "you're so lazy", and I say "look, you don't to use your hands all day long, mobilizing and manipulating people trying to get them better, and be good at your job, can't you just let me rest", then she says "what", then you...... crap. I think I got off topic.
Joined: October 24, 2006
From: New York
mcap- Do you mean education as a career or getting myself more education (DPT,etc.)?
Not a bad idea as a career and certainly one I've entertained. And as I said before, I was adjunct faculty at a local college for a couple of years.
However, I'm not interested in investing in any sort of education that can only possibly benefit the way I feel about my job and current professional standing (DPT reference). Any move I make at this point has to have a direct practical application that will feasably result in improved earnings (MBA, JD, MM, even considering trades).
What kind of living can a full time educator make???
Joined: February 14, 2003
From: Madison WI USA
Ed, Does the MTB-XC near your name stand for cross country Mountain bike racer? Its never to late to join the pro tour. Its a lot more fun than this working business. Im in if you are......Lets show these young whippersnappers a thing or two. Are ya with me?.....Ed?......