Why did you decide to become a physiotherapist? For me, it was because throughout my teenage years, I experienced injury upon injury. Playing a range of different sports from Soccer, to Camogie, to rugby, to rowing and more. From seeing physiotherapist after physiotherapist, I saw how much they helped people like me. I saw it as an opportunity for me to make a difference. An opportunity for me to inspire. I wanted to be able to help people like me return from injury and get back to doing what they love. I have first-hand experience of the psychological knock injury can have. I have met so many physiotherapists along the way; some of whom were inspiring, unfortunately others were less so. I would have thought some were more experienced, and some less so and there in lied the difference. But now I am beginning to think this was somewhat inaccurate. Maybe there is no such thing as “more experienced” or “less experienced”. Maybe it is just different.
As a physiotherapist I strive to inspire. Inspire people to move, to grow and maximise their potential. I want my clients to leave my clinic feeling excited and empowered. I want them to feel they have been supported and guided, and their time spent with me has been valuable. I do not want them to leave with a follow up appointment with no purpose or justification. I do not want them questioning the value of their time and investment into themselves.
And for so long, I had been the one doubting and questioning this value. I questioned whether or not I was good enough. I never knew enough. I wasn’t experienced enough. Were my hands-on skills sufficient? Have I grasped their story okay? Did I misinterpret them? Have I solved their problem? Have I gotten the timeline to recovery correct? What if it takes longer? What if I am unable to help them? What if they come to me with a condition I have never heard of? How can I help them then?
Imposter syndrome is a thing. And unfortunately, it is extremely common. It is something I have suffered from for quite a number of years unbeknownst to myself. The transition from a public healthcare system to private practice definitely didn’t help. I am now required to put a price on my expertise and knowledge. But that is exactly what I have. Expertise and knowledge and most importantly, a desire to help.
Over the last year or so, I have been very outcome focused. My unique selling point- “helping you to achieve your goals”. Being able to play with your kids, being able to run your marathon, being able to get back to the gym. But now I am beginning to change my mind. Maybe it isn’t about the outcome at all, but about the process. It is about the journey. Yes, I think we should be goal oriented to an extent. But think of the process that is involved in recovering from pain or injury. Think of the mental and physical resilience it entails. Think about the lessons people learn while rehabbing, recovering, or even learning to manage a condition. Think about how these lessons can be applied to many a condition. Think about how they can assist in future flare ups, or even completely different situations. Aren’t these lessons and experiences just as important as the end result?
Jay Shetty talks about this in his book “Think Like a Monk” but from an alternative perspective. He describes how most people look for answers, but Monks are more focused on questions. He describes taking a goal and questioning the reasons behind it. What is the intention? For example, you want to climb Mount Everest. Why do you want to do it? Is it to be able to say you have done it? Or is it for the experiences you gain along the way, the lessons you will learn?
When we look at physiotherapy goals, ask your self, does it matter how we get there? I would say yes. Building resilience is important for our future selves. The lady who wants to play golf but is fearful of her shoulder pain. She gets an injection and plays golf pain free. What happens if/when the pain returns? What lessons has she learned? How has she learned to manage or cope previously? How will she manage or cope this time around?
We are impacted by experience. I once read something that said previous treatments have the potential to be a yellow flag. It something that I hope never to be. I hope to inspire and promote reliance. I hope to be a positive influence on all my clients. I aim for positive language. As Antony Lo would say I aim to leave them with a positive S.C.A.R. I aim to show my clients how Strong they are. How Capable they are. How Adaptable they are. And how Resilient they are.
I have previously (and frequently) spoken about how my aim should not be to fix. I aim to enable people to help themselves. I always would have focused previously on how far away we are away from the goal which I still believe is somewhat important. But also, it is important we acknowledge where you have come from. Acknowledge the hard work the individual has invested into themselves. Acknowledge the lessons they have learned along the way. I previously would have been quite prescriptive. Do this and do it this way. But how does that empower people in the long run? Yes, it might get them to the end goal, but it will also make them somewhat dependant on me if they run into trouble again. What if there is another way? Another more enjoyable way for that person perhaps. What if “my way” isn’t the only way?
When someone attends a physiotherapist, they begin a process and a journey. But there is a journey for both for clients and therapists alike. At the end of the day we are not all that different. The experience I, as the therapist, gain from each and every session is valuable. I do not consider any experience to be a bad experience. Challenging perhaps, but aren’t they the most valuable? If I expect my clients to learn and grow throughout their physiotherapy journey, how can I expect any different from myself?
Yes, maybe I will encounter conditions I have not heard of before. But that is okay. Maybe I will misinterpret on occasion. And that is okay. Maybe I will not get the timeline to recovery correct straight off the bat, and that is okay. Because each end every time one of these things occur, I gain experience. Each and every time I help a person, or even fail to help someone, I gain experience. I gain an opportunity to reflect, learn and grow. I am four years out of college and still growing. I suspect (and hope) that when I am 40 years out of University I will still be learning and growing at the same rate. Because the day we think we have all of the answers is they day we need to give up.
I used to think as I am a fairly new graduate, I was less experienced. I am now reframing that to “having different experience”. “Different” experience does not equate to more or less. I do not think experience is something that we can be. It is something we have. My experience will be different to yours. Yours will be different to the next. But one thing is for sure that all experience has the potential to be positive. So when you feel a little down over not having enough experience, when you have a conversation with someone who seems a lot more experienced than you, let’s try to reframe it. Let’s look at this as an experience in itself. Let’s acknowledge your amazing journey thus far and look forward to the exciting experiences you are about to gain.
Just as clients are on a journey, so are we. So why don’t we start to enjoy the ride?Leave a reply
Love this perspective Dani. Keep it up. You have great insight.Reply