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  • News From NEXT: Understanding Personality Types Can Enhance the PT-Patient Relationship

    Understanding one’s own personality, as well as the personalities of coworkers and patients, can make physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) more successful in both their workplace and home life, according to Jacky Arrow, PT, DPT. Arrow presented “He Said, She Said: How personality and communication can improve patient education” on June 14 at the 2019 NEXT Conference and Exposition.

    She pointed out that in communication between the PT and the patient, “It’s not their responsibility to come to us or to meet us half way. It’s our responsibility to meet them.”

    She first recommended that the attendees determine their own personality types. She mentioned several tests but focused on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which places a person on 4 scales: extraversion vs introversion, sensing vs intuitive, thinking vs feeling, and judging vs perceiving.

    For example, Arrow explained, an introvert typically waits to be asked a question and then needs time to construct an answer. Extraverts, on the other hand, tend to be talkative and fast-paced. Regarding body language, extraverts tend to lean forward and talk with their hands, while introverts pause before answering and often sit back, sometimes with arms crossed. When treating patients who are introverts, she suggested, provide information in advance or tell them you plan on asking specific questions. Be prepared for follow-up questions either later in a session or at the next session. A strategy to working with extraverts includes active listening, thinking out loud, and planning talking points.

    Another example she provided related to judgers vs perceivers. Judgers respect rules and deadlines such as structured activity, she said, and they prefer a specific plan of care with milestones. Perceivers tend to be flexible with rules and deadlines and are open to adjustments in a plan of care. For those reasons, judgers do better with a written program calendar, while perceivers like to link progress to big-picture goals. To illustrate, she suggested that if the goal is to have a patient do an exercise for 30 seconds, tell a judger to exercise for 30 seconds. Tell a perceiver to sing the song “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to gauge the elapsed time.

    Understanding the personality types of colleagues also can be beneficial. “Knowing the other personality types fosters better working relationships. And it allows PTs and PTAs to practice their skills with those of other personality types,” Arrow said.

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