Because We Care
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
This is my letter to the class of 2019.
It’s hard to believe that our time as students has come to an end. Before we move away, start our jobs, and start grinding, I want to remind all of us why we chose this profession: because we care.
Over 10 years ago I heard the following story:
Some number of years ago, there was a man who committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. When the police carried out their investigation, they found a note on his nightstand table.
The note read as follows: I am alone in this world and I don’t belong here. Tomorrow morning, I am going to walk 1 mile to the Golden Gate Bridge at rush hour and take my life. If 1 person smiles at me, I won’t do it.
While the story is sad, it carries an important message.
Every single person, in this room, in this city, in this world, is battling something that you can’t see.
Whether it’s a patient or somebody passing on the street, I want to challenge you to be the reason that someone smiles today. I can’t believe that I’m about to quote Dolly Parton, but, "If you see someone without a smile, give them yours," because a smile can make someone’s day and even save someone’s life.
As physical therapists, we will be surrounded by people who need smiles. We will all have the incredible opportunity and privilege to interact with people who are in pain, who are suffering, who are vulnerable, and who are seeking help. While the information that we’ve learned in school is relevant, it all falls second to genuinely caring about the people in front of us.
As Theodore Roosevelt once said, "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."
I want to encourage you to be there for your patients every single day.
Care for them with compassion and empathy.
Listen to your patients, make them feel heard, and make them feel valued.
Get to know the people who you treat and understand that it’s a privilege to be in a position where we can help people who are trusting us to take them where they want to be.
I know it won’t always be that easy.
I’ve been told time and time again that as we begin our careers, there will be times when we feel overwhelmed and times when we won’t know what to do next.
In those cases, I want to offer a piece of advice that is often attributed to an old friend, Albert Einstein, "Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."
When you feel overwhelmed and experience self-doubt, just remember that not everything that matters shows up in the numbers or on paper. Remember that the important things—how we care for other people, how we love other people, and our intentions to leave the world just a little bit better than we found it—can’t always be quantified. When you’re not sure what to do next, just do the next right thing; fall back on the fundamentals and choose to be there for the people who you treat.
Make it part of your job to help your patients believe in themselves, because like Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, you're right."
Find ways to show your patients that they can, and things will fall into place.
No matter where we end up in our careers, I want to remind us to never underestimate the power of human connection. Like the saying that is often attributed to Maya Angelou, "People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel."
Before I close, I want to leave you with the wise words of Paul Shane Spear: "As 1 person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of 1 person."
Whether it’s in the clinic or just in life, remember that everyone is struggling with something that you can’t see and that with each interaction, no matter how big or how small, you have the opportunity to change the world for the person in front of you. No matter where our careers take us, I hope that we always remember why we chose this profession. I hope that we can embrace the fact that the best physical therapists are the best humans, and that our time here on earth is bigger than our work and bigger than us.
Joe Rinaldi, PT, DPT, is a graduate of Drexel University. You can connect with Joe on Instagram or on his blog.