Navigating the evolution from student life to clinician life can be a tough transition. It can sometimes feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose, an imposter, like you are spinning your wheels, or like you don’t have good direction. With the countless questions about how to be successful as a new grad and student we get across various social media platforms, at live weekend courses, in our membership program, and in our roles as faculty at university we decided to reach out to multiple people in the rehab space who have shown great objective success, continued growth, leadership, and reflection early in their careers. Below is a list of advice from 8 highly successful clinicians who navigated the transition from student to new grad and then again from new grad to excellent clinician/leader/business owner/entrepreneur/thought leader.
Lead instructor: Prehab 101
Director of rehab: Orlando Sports Rehab
"Don't think you have to figure it all out on day one.
We can fall into this trap of thinking we need to get the perfect plan in place from that first visit with a patient. Or that we have to design the perfect exercise program or have every crucial conversation. And the reality is, you can't know everything after one visit.
You are seeing one small snippet of this patient's life and experience and trying to deduce something from it.
Rehab is an emergent process. You have to take the information in front of you, make a plan you feel confident in (based off of best evidence and experience as you gain it), and see how they respond to it. Sometimes it will go well and sometimes you have to pivot. And that's the reality of our job.
But don't be afraid of the pivot, because we all have to. And not just with exercise, but with our conversations and education too.
I build out my patient's rehab programs one week at a time and gauge response. Some people flare up because we went a bit too fast. Some people have questions that pop up or notice a roadblock that needs to be addressed. For some, it was too easy! And for others it is smooth sailing all the way.
So don't get too ahead of yourself. Have a general idea of where you want to go, a framework of sorts, but let the details evolve as you get there."
Head Performance Physical Therapist: Memphis Grizzlies
In the age where the dissemination of misinformation perpetuates biases and fallacies, namely confirmation, survivorship and appeal to authority, developing principles may aide to mitigate our tendency of experiencing helplessness in the uncertainty of rehabilitation. New graduates, potentially more than others, are susceptible to the persuasion of courses that provide specific methods and techniques, proclaiming to fix specific findings. Ultimately, many times such courses under-deliver. Consequently, this leads to the temptation of taking more courses that provide different set of complex methodologies and techniques. This is a slippery slope as it can manifest as having several tools that are being arbitrarily used and with limited efficacy.
Thus, the most essential piece of advice for a new graduate rehab clinician is to spend time creating foundational principles backed by scientific fundamentals such as physiology and physics. Principles improve the ability to determine relevant vs. non-relevant information and lead to a more pragmatic development of reasoning and rationale. The sea of uncertainty is exacerbated if you have no principles to keep you from being pulled in so many different directions. Acquiring such principles can increase clinical confidence and increase one’s ability to navigate the noise with simple strategies even for the complex situations.
Lead Instructor and Co-creator: The Level Up Initiative
It is difficult to choose just one piece of advice, but what I feel encompasses many "gems" of experience is the following: Do not ever stop asking questions. Whether this is asking "how can I do better?" or seeking further explanation from a teacher or mentor on concepts you've been taught, or even diving into the methods of a research article because the conclusion just doesn't seem to match the findings in your eyes.
This profession and the humans we serve deserve clinicians who are continually striving to know better and do better and that never happens by doing things "the way they have always been done." We are in a unique position as clinicians to change the trajectory of a negative life experience for others and truly positively impact them. Do not take that lightly.
As many greats have said before, be the change you wish to see in the world!
Lead Instructor and Co-creator: The Level Up Initiative
I can still revisit the feelings vividly, of being a new graduate. Deeply rooted feelings of uncertainty underpinned by a major lack of clinical confidence.
So what would the biggest piece of advice be to my younger self and new grads? Embrace those feelings, but find solace in keeping it simple and building relationships.
I think one of the biggest drivers of my new grad anxiety, was feeling like I needed to know all of these fancy systems and manual techniques yesterday, and that I was not equipped to help people get better.
But that could not be further from the truth. When I started talking less, and listening more, I found myself learning exactly what things needed to be done, and what to focus on in building plans of care. As my mentor told me, "Most people really just need a good listening to."
Godspeed and enjoy the journey!!!
Director of Sports medicine: Healthy Baller PT
As a new clinician, it’s important to understand your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for future growth. Commit to improving your weaknesses through continuing education and self-education. Get involved, attend conferences, network, build relationships, use social media in a positive and enriching way, and learn from those who have come before you. You’ve entered a field where every day presents new unique challenges, change happens quickly, and lifelong learning is essential.
Actor – Singer – Dancer – Physical Therapist: Jenna Kantor Physical Therapy
Co-founder: Fairlytale Physical Therapy
Do not let the pathways that other physical therapists before you have taken dictate your direction or how you’re going to live out your life as a professional clinician. The only factors you truly need to focus on are a combination of keeping yourself happy and healthy and a consistent focus on doing what gets patients better.
When the time comes, it will also be very important to recognize and understand the difference in mindset between being a clinician who is a business owner vs just a clinician. This is imperative to appreciate why people do what they do in healthcare and have greater amount of understanding when feeling pressure to point fingers at others who you perceive to be creating the problems within healthcare. If you are employed by a company with a vision, mission, and execution that you do not agree with or feels serves what we as clinicians should be striving for, and choose not to move on to a different position that better reflect the ideals of the profession, you are complicit in feeding into that problem.
Physiotherapy Director: Old North Physiotherapy
Creator and content lead: #Hannahmoves
You’re going to have doubts. You’re going to have conviction. You’re going to make mistakes and you’re going to be on the money. At times you’ll be frustrated. Other times completely fulfilled. They’ll be days you feel like an imposter and out of your league, and days where you feel like the world’s leading expert. You’ll be exhausted, energized, happy and sad. You’ll be calm, ecstatic, confused and surprised. You’ll laugh, cry, worry and triumph.
You’re going to fail. And you’re DEFINITELY going to succeed
Just remember that all of this is normal, and it is true of us all.
So get a little better each day and enjoy the ride.
You are meant to be here and you’ll do amazing things.
Owner/Creator: SISU Physical Therapy
As a new grad, I was convinced that I knew nothing and had no value to bring to the table. I got so caught up in special tests and exercise progressions, and completely missed how good I was at relating to my patients, listening to them, and seeing them in the most vulnerable of times. You have to remember that you are MORE than your ability to figure out what’s wrong, that you’re more than your exercise progressions and that most patients really need a person to be there for them, advocate for them and care for them compassionately. If you can do that, trust me when I say, you’ve done more than a good job.