My Nontraditional Journey in Pursuing This Incredible Career
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I remember when the physical therapy profession first caught my attention.
I was anchoring the morning news in Wichita, Kansas—yep, I was a broadcast journalist—when I encountered my first television news story about physical therapy.
I introduced a story about military physical therapists rehabilitating soldiers who had suffered limb loss in Iraq. Physical therapists (PTs) in Texas helped train these soldiers to climb rock walls and conquer incredible athletic feats, performing at levels most Americans can only dream.
It was completely inspiring, and I'm easily drawn in when it comes to people overcoming trauma and becoming stronger for it. Not only was I unaware of physical therapy as a profession prior to that story, but I was also unaware at that moment as to how much my life was about to change.
Due to a mix of frustration with my career in TV news combined with a love of exercise and science, I divorced my career as a TV broadcaster and decided to pursue a career in physical therapy.
At first though, I exercised caution. I had to be sure physical therapy would be a good fit for me, as this transition from performing as a news broadcaster to attaining a doctorate in an unrelated field was going to take considerable hard work, time, money, and energy. The idea was mildly absurd, I'll admit, and I had little support to make it happen. Even my mom, who was a massage therapist (who believed in the healing power of body work), was skeptical, but she came around once she realized just how passionate I had become.
I completed observation hours both at the local Veterans Affairs Hospital and at another local orthopedic outpatient clinic, and took on the necessary coursework prerequisites. To even my own surprise, I did well and was quickly convinced I had made the right choice.
I love that exercise combined with manual therapy actually provides relief to people's ailments, and that these interventions are based on peer-reviewed science.
I love understanding how the brain can impact our ability to perceive pain and anxiety and how it can change in response to physical activity and conscious thought.
Most of all, I love how physical therapy engages with people's innate strength and resilience.
Patients don't always need a pill or a shot to find relief. Sometimes relief lives within our own bodies, and all we need is for someone to show us how to tap into our own power.
Despite my nontraditional journey in pursuing this incredible career in physical therapy, without a doubt I can say I'm happy I had the courage to follow my passion.
Susan McNertney, SPT, is a student at Simmons University in Boston. You can connect with Susan on Twitter at @McnertneySusan.