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Off to a Smooth Start: 4 Tips for New PTs

Whether you’re just starting your career or getting started at a new clinic, there is a lot to learn and overcome for new physical therapists and occupational therapists. These simple but effective tips can help you establish yourself as an asset to your team and build strong relationships with your patients from the get-go.

1. Remember the little things.

Patients tend to share important parts of their lives with their physical therapists. Making an effort to not only remember these things but also mention them while you’re checking in on your patients is an imperative part of patient-centered care.

As PT’s, we always want our patients’ aches and pains to decrease and their ability to move well to increase. However, remembering things like their favorite restaurant or that they attended their grandchild’s birthday party over the weekend will make them a patient for life!

2. Look good, feel good.

As a student or a new-grad physical therapist, it’s difficult to cultivate a trusting relationship with your patients from the first day because they are often tentative to be treated by the “new kid.” This is why having a pulled-together and professional appearance is key to starting a trusting relationship.

By looking the part of a doctor, it will not only give you the confidence to approach any new patient with assurance but also help them be comfortable and trust that you will give them the best care they can get.

Pick outfits that fit your clinic’s dress code, that you are comfortable in, and that you think you look great in as well. If you look good and feel confident, you will be able to give those same feelings to your patients making their evaluations and treatment sessions the best hour of their day.

3. Keep cruising.

During an evaluation, there are certain questions that need to be asked and certain tests that need to be performed to figure out a patient’s diagnosis and prognosis. Many new therapists and students like to complete evaluations in a certain order, but if they start to go out of order, it can stop them in their tracks. Don’t let this happen to you!

Remember, your patients are unaware of your plan, and they trust you to give them the best care possible—so take a deep breath and keep moving along. Once you regroup your thoughts, take the time to ask any additional questions and repeat any movement or special test you need to.

Being accurate and taking the time to really figure out what’s going on with your patient should be your number-one priority. Let your evaluations be a living, breathing thing—keep cruising, learn from your mistakes, and be better with every new evaluation you complete.

4. Flexibility is key!

Physical therapy is a career that is driven by people. Patients often times arrive late, have to cancel their appointments, or show up unexpectedly, and coworkers or bosses may need you to adjust your schedule to best fit the clinic’s needs. Being flexible and willing to change your hours in these situations will make you an asset to your team.

Flexibility is also one of the key characteristics that clinical instructors look for in students because it is an indicator that they will be successful working on their own as licensed therapists. So be flexible, it will pay off!