Physical therapy is a wonderful and rewarding career, but there are concerns one has to consider before launching into the fairly intensive expenditure of time and money it takes to acquire your education and become a licensed practitioner. Between highly challenging demands on your time and your emotional state, you need to consider if you’re cut out to be a physical therapist as this is a very taxing career. Below, we discuss ideal personality traits beneficial to being a physical therapist.
Physical therapists work with people in pain. This is the inescapable fact of being a physical therapist, and the one thing that people in pain do not have is patience. Therefore, you have to have it for them. Your patients will be strengthened, emotionally if not physically, by your willingness to help them work through their pain. It’s a mark of compassion as well as the only workable approach to this vocation. Talking down angry, highly emotional patients is going to be something you do day in and day out, so you need to be able to put your patients’ needs before your own.
If you’re not convinced that your treatments are going to help your patients, they won’t be either. If you are confident in what you are doing, and offer an honest assessment of your patients’ progress, you will be in a much better position to deal with their ills and help them heal.
Having confidence in your treatment is especially important when working with patients suffering from chronic or degenerative illnesses, since both conditions tend to make patients less rational and willing to listen. In some cases, they may not physically be able to understand or comprehend what you are doing due to cognitive dysfunction or failure, so exuding an aura of confidence becomes especially important. Sometimes it really is as simple as body language and an easy smile.
Pain clouds reason. People who suffer from chronic pain or who because of degenerative illnesses cannot reason properly do not react well to silent treatment. At best you’re communicating the fact that you don’t care, at worst you’re telling your patients that you don’t want them to know what you’re doing.
You need to be able to reassure, motivate, and educate your patients on the treatments you are performing, and help them to help you heal them. If you can’t communicate what you are doing comfortably, and get your patients to work with you, it won’t matter how effective your actual treatments are, you’ll be doing just as much damage to their emotional state as their illnesses and injuries are doing to their bodies.
Your Own Physical Well Being
Not technically a personality trait pre se, the state of your own body’s health is a factor in how you interact with your patients. If they see that you don’t keep your own body in good condition, they’ll be less likely to trust your treatments and your advice. Body language too is a subconscious interaction with your patients. You need to be truly invested in helping them, or they will feel your disinterest and resent you for it.
Physical therapy is as much about interaction as medical science. You work as a confidant, friend, and therapist. It takes a compassionate soul to truly make a difference. If you have your heart set on becoming a physical therapist, make sure you’re taking all of the above points into consideration, because ultimately, being a physical therapist is about the patients you work with more than you.