Crafting Your Dream Job Starts With Knowing Your Crystal Balls
Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes
If you have never experienced the "Crystal Balls" talk by APTA President Sharon Dunn, you're truly missing out. It seems like at every conference Dr Dunn uses her slow, sultry, Louisiana drawl to lure you into story time. You can hear the faint whispers of jazz and taste the beignets, as Dr Dunn shares her experience with identifying the crystal balls in her life—the important things, if fumbled, would shatter and leave her world vastly different.
Crystal balls are different for everyone. The things that make each of us smile, grind, and repeat the struggle of school and full-time employment will vary from person-to-person. For reference, my personal crystal balls are listed below:
- Family, friends, and puppy: No explanation needed; relationships matter most and there are no substitutions.
- Escape into a fantasy novel: If it has a dragon in it, I'll read it. The escape from the stresses of the real world is crucial for me.
- Purposeful sweating: In Alabama we sweat a lot anyway, but purposeful sweating, aka exercise, is key to a happy vs grumpy Fred.
In addition to identifying your personal crystal balls, you should also identify your professional crystal balls. Before you begin to negotiate your contract, or even consider signing on with a company, interview your employer—you need to know your must-haves.
Must-haves are the things that will make the difference between burnout and workplace bliss. When I entered the job market 2 years ago (and as I now transition to new employment), these were the crystal balls for finding my professional home:
Proximity to mentorship: Mentorship is the carrot that all employers will dangle to attract talented students. There is a difference, however, in guaranteed mentorship hours and proximity to your mentor. I found infinitely more value in the daily 5 minute education I received by having a desk next to my mentor, in comparison with the scheduled 3 hours a month. Understand what's more important to you and make time to ask.
Extra personal time off (PTO) allotted for APTA and residency travel: My 5-year plan includes clinical and professional excellence. It has been crucial for my development in the NAIOMT Orthopedic Residency Program to have extra time off allotted for travel for education and conferences.
Surrounding myself with people infinitely more talented than myself: As much as my ego would enjoy being "the go-to guy" from day 1 on a job, I want to surround myself with individuals with more skills and talent than myself. I can't grow if I'm not challenged.
Support for expedited learning: I firmly believe that one learns the most in the first 5 years after physical therapy school. I want to work for an employer that supports and encourages this notion by allowing for growth, both inside and outside the clinic.
As I entered my contract negotiations as a new grad, I had these crystal balls identified as nonnegotiable. Everything else, from my standpoint, was on the table. This clarity of desires made discussions with my future employer much easier. Not only does this make it easier for your future boss to shape your offer to your individual needs, it also makes it much easier to say "no" to what seems like a good job offer.
Now for the nitty-gritty, practical job advice. As always, please remember this is my opinion developed from personal conversations and personal experiences.
Negotiations: Everything is negotiable (kind of).
We all go into contract negotiations expecting to ask for the moon regarding salary because we are fresh out of school with the latest and greatest knowledge. The sobering truth of the matter is that as a new grad, you don't have much leverage to negotiate your salary. You're entering the field at a relatively level-playing field, compared with everyone else.
You can, however, negotiate on your crystal balls. Need more time off for family or travel? Just ask. Want to go through a specific education track after school? Just ask. Salary is often more difficult to negotiate, but the rest is yours to shape. Remember, you can't receive what you don't ask for.
A general rule for negotiations that you can follow is the larger the company, the less you can negotiate; the smaller the company, the more you can negotiate. The beauty of a large system is the support and structure available in place; however, this also limits the ability to negotiate things like salary, PTO, and certifications.
Be willing to sacrifice.
This concept is much easier said than done. You will notice that my professional crystal balls did not include things like proximity to family, making mega-bucks, or getting off early, so I can enjoy my personal life.
My first job (and dream job) included a mentor 5 feet away, extra days off for education and conference travel, and 350+ continuing education hours in my first year and a half. It also included living 2 hours from family, a slightly diminished salary in exchange for upfront residency payment, and long hours in the clinic. But the kicker? I was happy. My professional crystal balls were met, and I was willing to sacrifice the rest to grow. Knowing yourself and your needs make crafting your dream job that much easier.
Nothing speaks louder to an employer than a candidate who shows legitimate interest in their company. Show up and be present when you shadow your potential future home. And do your research—nothing will impress them more than knowing their values, history, and about the individuals working there.
Also, remember that a 2-hour window will never tell you what you need to know about the employer; it's easy to cover up warts for 2 hours. Spend several days (spread out, of course) at the clinic to get a feel for the environment, your future coworkers, and the patient population you will be treating. Do they match your crystal balls? If yes, proceed; if not, move on.
Take your time and be comfortable with saying no.
Most of us graduate with that deep, dark cloud hanging over our heads called student debt. This forces most of us to make a rash decision on our first job just to pay the bills. Taking your time and finding the right job (based on your crystal balls) can make or break the direction of your career. There are plenty of jobs available, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says we will grow 25% from 2016-2020 (much faster than other occupations). Take your time, do your research, and make an informed decision.
Sometimes your "dream job" turns out to be more of a nightmare. This happens and this is okay, but you have to be comfortable with saying no and moving on. No one wants to jump from employer to employer in your first years. Taking your time will ensure that you are happy where you land and give you the opportunity to grow your roots to truly transform your clients' lives.
And finally, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The late Cecelia Graham of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, gave the class of 2015 the best job advice that I can think of. If a company offers you the moon and the stars, there is probably a catch. Be wary of what might be expected in return of those offers that sound out of this world. Take your time and research the company, talk to the staff, and contact former employees as well. More often than not, too good to be true is exactly that.
Knowing yourself will make knowing your dream job that much easier. Take some time over the next few weeks to get to know yourself. And if you see me at CSM (the kid in a bow tie), please share your crystal balls and your job search journey!
Take a breath. Follow your crystal balls. Crush it.
Fred Gilbert, PT, DPT, is a practicing clinician based out of Virginia. Fred served as the 2014-2015 APTA Student Assembly Board President. Connect with Fred on Twitter at: @FredGilbert_DPT.
Reflections From a Physical Therapy Student Book Club
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes
Curled up on the couch with a book over winter break, I opened up Over My Head by Claudia L. Osborn, the inaugural pick for our book club at Duke University's Doctor of Physical Therapy Division.
I jumped into a first-person account of a doctor who suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and read about what it is like to lose the ability to plan a day, remember short-term information, the ability to put your thoughts and feelings into words, and to lose all of your energy doing basic tasks.
Dr Osborn's incredible account has undoubtedly enhanced what I have studied in my Neurological Patient Management course. In this class, I learned mostly about the pathology, clinical presentation, assessment, and treatment of TBI. Not as much time was dedicated to learning about the human experience.
Fellow classmate Katie Scaff and I began our second year at Duke as new leaders of the Humanities Student Special Interest Group (SSIG), which seeks to explore the humanity of illness through stories, poetry, plays, visual art, music, performing arts, etc, to inform our practice as future physical therapists and learn about our patients as a whole.
Liz Arnold, SPT, (left) and Katie Scaff, SPT, (right)
Having participated prior in an interdisciplinary book club with medical students and thoroughly enjoying the discussion it created, we decided to create our own book club for our classmates.
With the encouragement of our faculty mentor Dr Elizabeth Ross, we put together a list of book options that involved a narrative about health, wellness, and illness.
In an effort to make this experience meaningful and rich for our classmates, we prioritized their likely interests and educational needs in choosing a story that we could explore together.
We certainly wanted this to be an experience free of the financial stresses that naturally come with physical therapy school, so budgeting for books was a high priority on our list. Luckily, the Humanities SSIG receives a nominal resource each year for programming. We wanted to provide our classmates with something tangible to claim as their own. We searched for second-hand copies that would cost nothing more to each student than the loose change that lives in the bottom of everyone's backpack. Used books made this possible with each student paying only $3, and part of our budget covering the rest.
Our group of about 20 classmates met to discuss the book together after winter break. A few students read the book while on a global service learning trip treating survivors of stroke and individuals with Parkinson disease. Many felt that reading this personal account of survivorship and obstacles of everyday life improved their ability to empathize with their patients, and to use alternative methods of communication and treatment interventions to facilitate the healing process.
Duke University's Doctor of Physical Therapy Division book club meeting
We shared a rich discussion about certain passages that were particularly powerful. Dr Osborn's road to acceptance of her TBI was a long journey, especially due to her lack of insight into her mental deficits and determination to practice medicine again.
As part of the discussion, we questioned how our approach to addressing unrealistic goals and patient expectations may have changed for the better regarding Dr Osborn's impatience to practice medicine again. While potentially unsafe and not feasible, would taking away that hope to one day return to her former self be more harmful to her healing? Is it our role as physical therapists to provide alternative methods to restore meaning to one's life, or is it something that must first come from within the patient?
While there is no right or wrong, this book allowed us to explore the "what ifs" and gray areas of our practice that will lay the foundation for our growth as future health professionals.
Our takeaways from the book include having patience with those who struggle with mental deficits and decline; understanding that a person may not have insight into their condition; considering how someone's condition affects their everyday life within their home and community; and realizing that a patient's road to acceptance of their new reality after a life-changing event takes time, self-awareness, realistic goal setting, and a support system.
We are planning for our next book club reading and are considering Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
Through these stories and group discussions, we can hope to grow in understanding and empathy for our patients and our future roles as health care providers. In doing so, we hope to become better physical therapists and human beings.
Liz Arnold, SPT, and Katie Scaff, SPT, are students at Duke University. To learn more about how Liz and Katie started a book club with their classmates, connect with them on Facebook.
2018: An Exciting Year for Students
Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes
My fellow students,
I hope this message finds you well and in good spirits at the start of this new year. It is with great pleasure to greet you as your new APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors (SABoD) president.
Since our elections at the 2017 National Student Conclave in Portland, Oregon, your 10 board members have begun the process of strategizing the upcoming year, and let me just say, we've got a lot in store for you.
2017-2018 APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors
In December we began the process of reviewing, analyzing, and updating the SABoD strategic plan. Since then, we have decided to continue using the guiding principles (value, professionalism, and communication) that the previous board had set. It is important that we continue to build on these principles, in order to maintain continuity and to ensure that we are providing you with the optimal experience as a Student Assembly member.
As you continue, or begin, your physical therapist or physical therapist assistant student career, we hope that you will consider different ways to connect and engage with students, faculty, and practicing clinicians on the state and national level. How do you do that? Here are some suggestions that I can offer:
Attend a conference or an event: I firmly believe that you cannot find more engaged physical therapist and physical therapist assistant students and practicing clinicians in 1 setting than at an APTA national conference. Every year there are 3 great opportunities (CSM, NEXT, NSC) for you to meet colleagues who have the same professional interests and passions as you do. If a national conference is not an option, reach out to your local chapter about events that they're hosting in the near future. I can attest that at these events you meet people who you wouldn't have met otherwise, you learn about new and cutting-edge science pertaining to our profession, and you leave feeling even more excited about our profession than when you arrived. Trust me, these experiences are truly invaluable and invigorating to your professional career!
Become involved in federal and state advocacy: There are ample opportunities for you to advocate for the profession on the state and national level. On the national level, Federal Advocacy Forum (FAF) is available to you to speak to legislators and advocate for your profession. The same is available for state level advocacy. As a past attendee of FAF, I can assure you that this experience will light a fire in you for the profession like no other! Additionally, there are opportunities such as legislative days in your state and the APTA Action app that will aid you in contributing your part in the advancement of our profession. The smallest efforts contribute to making a difference to you as a student and for the future of our profession. Let's work together to advance the profession!
Be on the lookout for information coming soon from your SABoD on National Advocacy Dinners.
Connect with other students: As students, there is no greater time to connect with fellow #DPTstudent(s) and #PTAstudent(s) on different social media outlets using these hashtags (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). Additionally, #PTfam, #APTAFuture, #ChoosePT, #PTTransforms, #APTAvalue, and #BetterTogether are hashtags that you can use to connect with students who have the same drive and vigor as you. Also, reaching out to your local chapters and requesting information on how to be involved with their Student Special Interest Groups, and possibly even coordinating a PT Pub Night, are definite ways to open doors for engagement opportunities with other students.
Remember, we are the future of our great profession, and building connections now will afford us opportunities to create new ideas, build our network, and grow the profession.
On behalf of the SABOD, thank you for your confidence in us, and we look forward to a prosperous year. We hope to see and speak with you this year. Please feel free to contact us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeremy Curtis, SPT, 2017-2018 President, APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors. Connect with Jeremy on Twitter at: @
Using Evidence Based Practice During Clinicals: The Student Perspective
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Recently, my cohorts and I left campus to begin our clinicals; for some, it was their first and for others, their second.
Prior to going our separate ways, we chatted about the different settings that we would be in and what we hoped to get out of our experiences.
It was evident that we all shared the goals of immersing ourselves in our experiences, learning as much as we could during our time there, coming away with the latest techniques and modalities to help our future patients, and possibly even finding a mentor.
Another shared goal was being able to use some of the latest evidence-based practice (EBP) techniques that help our patients to ensure that they are receiving the greatest care.
It was during this discussion that we stopped and asked ourselves that if we can review our lecture notes and collaborate with our CIs, how do we efficiently review information while balancing a busy day in the clinic? Is it possible to apply EBP when there are productivity standards?
I'll jump ahead to when my classmates and I decided to explore APTA's PTNow evidence-based website.
It seemed as though this tool, available free to APTA members, was a great solution to help us achieve our goals, and challenge the idea of productivity standards and making time for EBP being mutually exclusive.
So what is PTNow and how can students use it?
PTNow uses evidence-based practice to provide clinical resources for students and clinicians. It's a database of clinical summaries, tests and measures, clinical practice guidelines, and systematic reviews, and it's enhanced with access to journals via ArticleSearch and point-of-care resources via the Rehabilitation Reference Center. It allows us to save searches and create "clinical collections" for our personal profile to use as a reference throughout our clinicals. The clinical collections allow us to save what we find for each specific patient case in order to reference it at a later time. An example of this is shown below:
I asked my cohorts about their experiences with PTNow during their clinicals. Here's what they said:
"I used PTNow to look for new exercises and review different conditions. This helped me to better understand the causes and to choose the appropriate interventions. I was asked by my CI to find exercises that were different from the ones used regularly at the clinic, specifically for the shoulder and knee. I found that the images in the Rehab Reference Center were very helpful for visualizing the exercise."
–Elizabeth Tapia, SPT
The Rehabilitation Reference Center also includes:
General practice resources, such as handbooks and practice guideline references, and patient education handouts, such as summaries of diagnoses.
"I used the Tests and Measures section to review the most valid and reliable outcome measures for each patient. The Fall Risk in Community-Dwelling Elders Clinical Summary was especially beneficial in helping me to select appropriate objective measures for my patients, such as the Five Times Sit to Stand test, and to better track progress over the course of therapy."
–Amanda Kuptsow, SPT
The Tests and Measures section includes:
Administration, statistical interpretation, and videos of specific tests.
"I used PTNow to learn about diagnoses that I was treating and what interventions proved to be most beneficial. I found the Clinical Summaries section to be helpful because I treated some diagnoses that I did not learn about yet in my curriculum. I was able to use PTNow to look up information that I would not have gotten elsewhere."
–Nick Mullery, SPT
The Clinical Summaries section includes:
Evidence on managing patient diagnoses, overview of condition and exam, diagnosis/prognosis, medical management, and case study examples.
It is important to remember that evidence-based practice incorporates clinical expertise and patient values. During one of my clinicals in an outpatient setting, I created a plan of care based on information reviewed in the Clinical Practice Guidelines section, in addition to input from my CI. Using PTNow provided me with quick resources that I was able to reference, and it reinforced what my CI taught me, which ultimately led to a more successful collaboration and learning experience.
Having resources to reference and proper guidance from my CI allowed me to take into account each patient's values, and apply them to their plan of care.
By the end of our clinical experiences, my cohorts and I were able to reach our goals. We learned that it is possible to successfully apply evidence-based practice while collaborating with our CIs, and even each other.
Using PTNow as the foundation for evidence allowed us to be more time efficient in the clinic by choosing interventions and outcome measures most valid and reliable for each individual patient.
It was evident that applying this information helped our patients gain trust in what were doing, as they saw better results and reached their own goals.
Alana Papa, SPT, APTA Student Assembly PTNow Student Liaison. Learn more about PTNow by contacting Alana by email.
Intangibles That Make The Physical Therapy School Experience
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes
Service wasn't really an option in my household growing up; it was an expectation.
Admittedly, I was very fortunate and have been afforded many privileges because of the family I was born into. However, early in my life my parents instilled a responsibility that I should always assist others whenever I was able to do so.
As my parents continually subjected me to service opportunities, big and small, I began to form my world view and a cumulative picture of what being a humanist means. From completing ditch cleanup around our neighborhood to Special Olympics coaching, or going on "Feed My Starving Children" outings, to helping my father out in the operating room in Ecuador, these service memories of mine have become great treasures and vital components of my early development. They helped me to grow up in an environment that was receptive to differences in appearance, religion, culture, intellectual ability, orientation, and everything else that encompasses the beautiful and unique human experience.
These are also all experiences that grew service into one of the pillars that drew me toward a career in physical therapy.
As physical therapists we serve our patients, our colleagues, and our communities every single day.
Since entering the world of physical therapy, I have found so many opportunities to deepen my passion for service—opportunities which have helped me develop professionally and personally—and have also helped me to grow my cultural understanding more than I could have ever imagined.
The first time service was combined with my physical therapy experience was through work on the American Physical Therapy Association's Student Assembly's Community Service Project Committee (talk about a long acronym -- APTASA CSPC).
As my involvement in this committee developed, we began to plan service events that coincided with some of the annual APTA conferences. After a successful event that was held at National Student Conclave (NSC) 2016 in Miami, we decided to plan a similar event in Portland for NSC 2017.
Needless to say, this event was a smashing success. A group of about 20-30 Special Olympics coaches and athletes attended a session that was completely organized, programmed, and run by physical therapists and physical therapist assistant students. The coaches and athletes were brought through a roughly 90-minute session outlining best practices for warm-ups, skill drills to address agility, strength, balance, aerobic conditioning, and proper cool down and stretching methods. Together, student volunteers from all over the country who were attending NSC that weekend volunteered to be part of this service event.
As a group we demonstrated APTA's vision statement and "optimizing movement to improve the human experience."
To me, I believe there are a lot of ways that we as a profession can live out this vision, both through our practice, and through different volunteer endeavors.
In all of my service experience, specific to the time I have been in my physical therapy program, I have found generous and intangible value and return from the time I give to others. Many of the service events I have attended have put me in contact with a group of individuals who are very different from me. They may have different cultural, ethnic, or religious backgrounds and preferences. They may have significantly different intellectual and physical ability. They may even just come from a different socioeconomic or educational background than I do. In my opinion, though, this is perfect.
Interacting with these individuals helps me to adjust and challenge my way of thinking, communicating, and educating in a way that impacts me as a person and as a future physical therapist (PT). I believe that my interactions that have come from volunteer work have been some of the largest contributing factors to the development of my soft skills with patients. These experiences can also help to prepare us to interact with patients from backgrounds of which we have never been exposed, to be adaptable providers.
Admittedly, I'm not a huge fan of the term cultural competency. I don't believe that we can ever have true competency in a culture other than our own. Instead, I'm a big believer in cultural understanding—an understanding that we are all different. Further, there are differences within every patient that we need to be able to draw out in order to give the best quality of care. I'm a firm believer that this idea of cultural understanding can be developed through service.
So how can all of us find ways to implement service into our own physical therapy journey?
Our schedules are already jam-packed with classwork, studies, patient care, continuing education, maybe taking care of a family, professional commitments, and any number of other items. While community service is just another thing to add to our to-do list, it's important and it can be a commitment, big or small, and focusing on an interest of your choosing.
I now challenge all of you.
Find a way to insert 1 act of service into your schedule next month. If you are someone who already does this regularly, I challenge you to get your family, coworkers, or friends involved as well. I invite you to reap the benefits of service for both your personal and your professional life; I know that you won't regret it.
Lastly, I want you to remember, as PTs we are public servants. We serve patients. We serve people. We serve our communities. We are the physical therapy profession.
Domenic Fraboni, SPT, APTA Student Assembly Board of Directors, Nominating Committee Member. Connect with Domenic on Twitter at: @fraBONAFIDEspt.