• This Is Why

    Being a PT Rocks

    Take it from a guy who knows.

    • By Jon Weiss, PT
    • November 2011
    This Is Why: Image 1
    Jon Weiss, PT, DPT  

    Podcast: Listen to 'This Is Why'  

    I like to say I employ the "rock star" model of health care delivery.

    As the founder and lead singer of Humble Kings—a band that has performed live more than 500 times, mostly in New York City and Israel—I tap many of the same leadership and team skills I use as a home care physical therapist (PT).

    The band and audience look to me on stage, in front of a microphone, for direction. Similarly, as a PT, I'm the "front man" in my patients' health care. With my stethoscope around my neck, the medical team relies on me to provide physical therapy and identify potential red flags. Patients count on me to help improve their function and quality of life.

    Both pursuits engage my creative side. As a PT, I seek the best solutions to patient problems, just as, in writing songs, I seek out the best lyrics. A recent case illustrated all of this and reaffirmed why I entered the profession of physical therapy.

    I was working in the South Bronx, with a patient who lives in public housing. She badly needed physical therapy and durable medical equipment. She was on welfare, with Medicaid as her primary insurance. She couldn't find her insurance card. She kept saying, "I have many doctors, and they all work at the hospital." She thought everyone who'd seen her—from emergency room physicians to specialists—was "her" doctor. After a long phone conversation with Medicaid, I tracked down the phone number of her primary care physician.

    I convinced the office manager there to squeeze her in the next day, scheduled transportation in a specially equipped van, and wrote a note for her to share with the physician. The doctor subsequently ordered home care physical therapy and the equipment I'd requested. I worked with this patient, and before long she could ambulate around her home, using a rolling walker I'd obtained for her.

    But she still needed assistance to stand, because a seat lift chair I wanted for her wasn't covered by Medicaid. I contacted her social worker, who gave me a list of charities potentially willing to pay for the device. Multiple phone conversations with the first organization on the list failed to produce results. I was able to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the director of the second charity, though, who approved the expense. My patient was extremely grateful for the persistence I'd shown in helping to improve her quality of life.

    Case coordination really is a lot like a Humble Kings concert. During the show I continuously exchange cues with my drummer—the primary care physician in this analogy—and my bass guitarist, the registered nurse. They are the rhythm section—the backbone of the band and the health care team, respectively. I smile as the surgeon tears it up on electric guitar, the occupational therapist complements on keyboards, and the social worker keeps the groove on rhythm guitar. The horn section—home health aides, home attendants, and outside resources—fill out a big and rocking sound that excites audiences and lends patients strength and hope.

    The creativity and resourcefulness I apply as a PT are the same skills I use to keep Humble Kings in sync. We are a tight band that delivers fluid and seamless performances that often are rewarded with standing ovations. I'm also a leader of a precisely coordinated health care team that often is rewarded with a standing, ambulating, and happier patient whose life we've helped enhance. I savor both roles.

    Jon Weiss, PT, DPT, practices in New York City. He welcomes e-mail at jonweisspt@yahoo.com. Humble Kings' Web site is www.humblekings.com. 

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