Hang with me. I’m amped, I motivated, I’m psyched, I’m downright manic – and I only have a short time before this feeling fades to make as much progress as I can, including pumping this blog out to you.
I just got back from CSM (APTA’s Combined Section Meeting) and I have the same feeling I always do after one of these conferences – I need to make an impact, and I need to do it now. For those of you who may not be familiar with CSM, it is a 4 day conference held annually that brings together over 10,000 PTs, PTAs, and students for some high level education. Well, education is the pre-text, I find myself more drawn to the social… excuse me, “networking” events. The reunions with old classmates, professors, colleagues, and friends are totally priceless. These people, automatically by being at the conference, are also all jacked up about PT and what we need to be doing to make it even better. So, while I indulge heavily in the
social “networking opportunities,” I look forward to the conversations all year: Conversations about the research friends are engaged in, different practices in different clinics around the country, and what every individual therapist is doing to improve PT and all of healthcare in their communities and nationally. Don’t get me wrong, I found the actual, formal programming fascinating too and have several clinical-pearls to bring back to the clinic an implement immediately, but I just love getting together with everyone.
CSM is an ultra-boost, one of the highest forms of motivation, but not everyone can or needs to go to CSM. BUT! Everyone should do something to get a similar charge. As travelers we can exist very isolated in our individual silos unless we make a concerted effort to expand our horizons and take in some new information. There’s a certain stereotype of the traveler out there that just simply doesn’t apply to the vast majority of travelers – let’s give this stereotype a name, how about “Clint” – definitely just a random name, yeah, random. Clint is a lazy slob. Clint hasn’t had a meaningful continuing ed experience in 4 years. Clint is at work to survive the day and definitely not to excel. The thing about Clint is, I’ve never met a traveler like him. Travelers are generally insanely fascinating people who have the motivation, gall, and cajones to drop convention and get out on the road. A seasoned traveler can be dropped into a clinic on Monday and be completely indiscernible from the permanent staff by Wednesday – a true chameleon. In PT these days, autonomous is a hot word. If there’s anything more autonomous than loaning your services out for 3 months at a time to the flavor-of-the-month employer, I haven’t seen it. A traveler is truly autonomous, highly resistant to the negative influences that colleagues, bosses, and referral sources can build over time. The hyper-autonomy of the traveler’s life, moving from place to place and determining your own path, can be isolating. We must seek out education and motivation if we don’t want to end up like Clint. There are tons of great options out there: Courses offered locally during contracts, courses offered at a distance on a road trip between assignments, state meetings of your professional association, and more long-term certificate and specialization courses. We must make sure we get out there and get supremely jazzed-up by interacting with other professionals and finding out what else is happening beyond our small sample of personal experiences. There’s nothing worse than seeing a new traveler show up to a job with all the confidence in the world that they know everything there is to know. A traveler will learn over several assignments that while there are great things about the way they have been taught to treat already, there is much, MUCH more to learn. Let me be clear, mastery of treatment and skills does not come from one clinic or one model of treatment, it comes from exposure to a great expanse of different treatments and styles over years (another advantage of travel).
So, go find your own CSM. Whatever gets you excited about your PT, OT, or SLP career, explore it in more detail, get exposed to all the different tangents that surround it. Put yourself in groups of other therapists and talk about what you do – more importantly, listen to what others do. I’m psyched, I’ve got video gait analysis techniques to implement, new post RTC repair techniques to use, emails to send to old friends to tell them how nice it was to see them, and emails to new friends to ask them to tell me more about their projects and passions. While out exploring the country, get invigorated, don’t get isolated in your own silo, don’t justify the stereotype of Clint.