Why I Chose Physical Therapy
Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes
I am obsessed with the human body.
When I took my first anatomy and physiology course in high school, I was hooked. I remember learning about the intricacies of the different systems of the body and being amazed at how they all work together. My favorite structure and function to learn about was the musculoskeletal system. That probably should have been the first indicator of where I would head for my career, but I did not pick up on it then. I loved learning about how the body repairs damage to its own structures.
The human body absolutely fascinates me.
When I started to look at where I was going to go to college and what I would major in, I was happy to discover the field of kinesiology. It took my obsession with the body to another level. Not only could I learn more in-depth about the different systems of the body, but I could focus on how movement and exercise interacts with them. This was again another indication of my future career, but I still missed it.
I chose kinesiology because of my personal interests, but I knew that I needed to determine where I wanted it to take me. Before choosing this field, I actually thought that I was going to go to school to become a pharmacist. I had spent a lot of time with my father at his pharmacy, and I could see myself doing it.
As I got closer to actually having to commit to a school, I really started to question if it was for me. I just had a sense that it wasn't the exact fit for my interests. I am an energetic person and enjoy a lot of physical activities throughout the day. That is why I was happy when I found kinesiology and decided to really jump in.
I was told that many people who study kinesiology go on to become a physical therapist (PT). I wasn't completely sure what that meant at the time, but I liked the idea of being able to continue my obsession with the systems of the body and their interaction with movement into a career.
I spent the first few years of my undergraduate study enjoying learning about the body and how those systems interact in such an amazing way. But I got to the point to where I had to think about where I was going after graduation.
Although I knew that physical therapy could be a good option for me, I really wanted to make sure that it was the career I could do for the rest of my life. This is when I started looking into health care fields and thinking about how well I would fit into them.
I knew a lot of students who were studying to become a nurse. While I knew that this field was extremely rewarding and fulfilling, it didn't have the interaction of the body and exercise that I had become so interested in.
The next option was going to medical school. It would allow an even deeper dive into the human body and the many ways to help repair damage. It also could possibly have the exercise and movement component that I enjoy. Then I thought about my own experience with physicians and how little time I was able to spend with them during appointments.
Research into this field brought up a lot of personal accounts about frustration with the health care system and how physicians are unable to build relationships with patients due to their responsibilities. This is when I realized that the ability to build a strong and lasting relationship with the people who I worked with really mattered to me.
I looked into becoming a physician's assistant. This would allow a bit more time to spend with patients and it could include movement and exercise. But I wasn't sure how much I would be able to determine the treatment plans for patients.
I was really looking for the combination of getting to see a patient through their recovery, while also being able to create the intervention that got them there.
The journey through health care career options brought me right back to where I started with physical therapy. This was when a beautiful relationship started that I did not see coming.
I knew many people who went to a PT after a sports-related injury. I loved the idea of working with athletes after an injury and returning them to their passion. It's physically active and definitely involves the body's interaction with exercise and movement. I knew that this line of work would be extremely fulfilling.
I began researching and talking to people who are PTs. That's when I discovered that PTs work with people in the geriatric population and help them with many different changes that occur with aging. This again was extremely interesting to me. Assisting people in living their lives to the fullest no matter their age – that is absolutely amazing.
I found my true calling when I came across the area of pediatric physical therapy. This was exciting! I always loved working with children. Going into this area of physical therapy meant that I would be able to create treatment plans that include exercise and movement to help foster a child's development. That was the absolute culmination of all of my interests, and I found a truly fulfilling career.
Fast-forward to today. I'm a second-year physical therapy student. Since starting physical therapy school I have only strengthened my relationship with this field. I've learned about acute care physical therapy and how we help people in their most vulnerable time. I have also learned about neurological conditions, rehabilitation, and how we can return function and quality of life to people who may have been told that they will never have that again. I've seen the growing fields of women's health helping and healing. I have learned even more about and experienced the many ways that we can help children and their families to improve physical, intellectual, and social development.
Had I not taken the time to really assess my wants and desires of working in health care, I may not have gone down the path to becoming a PT. Today, I can absolutely say I'm glad that I did. Not only because I discovered and explored this amazing profession, but I'm now equipped with insight about the rest of our health care team as well, which will help me assist my patients and their families in the future.
No hesitation, I'm honored to be part of this profession, and I'm excited to be part of the future of physical therapy.
Erin Sayles, SPT, is a student at the University of Rhode Island. You can connect with Erin on Twitter at @ErinSaylesSPT.