Our guest blogger this week is TJ Janicky; a marathoner, triathlete, constant learner, and 2015 #DPTstudent at Rutgers. You can catch up with him here or @TJ_Janicky on Twitter. Thanks for this post, TJ!
I had a really good conversation over a few beers the other day with Scot Morrison, a physical therapist here in Portland, Oregon. I spoke to him quite a bit about an unshakable feeling of discomfort I’ve been feeling while on my orthopedic internship here in Portland. The discomfort stems from a daily questioning of what I once thought to be true/effective/explainable. It’s not because I don’t feel competent or safe to treat patients but I am starting to truly see and understand how little I “know” in terms of what I observe and do in the clinic. I was comforted to see recently that I am not the only student struggling with this idea.
I feel like every day is a battle between what I have learned in school, read in journals and what actually happens when I apply what I have learned to the average patient. Spoiler alert for those of you still in denial, THEY ARE NEVER THE SAME and often the effects are difficult to explain (placebo is a great example). Having been on a few clinical rotations prior to this current one, I thought for sure that I would have been able to shake that feeling of discomfort. I have not. I took comfort (or maybe discomfort) in my conversation with Scot when he told me that this feeling is not only common, but its actually a good thing.
As a DPT student I hear quite often how the profession looks to its future professionals to be the change the profession hopes to see. A key component in change and innovation, is not being afraid to face discomfort, in fact those who have embraced the discomfort seem to be at the forefront of innovation. We do not want to become “comfortable” physical therapists as it sets us up for a future of perpetual mediocrity. This idea of embracing discomfort has a place in not only our careers but our everyday lives as well.
I think a large reason physical therapy as a profession struggles to create change is that we are constantly battling against human nature. It is natural to embrace comfort. Humans are comfortable working 9–5 jobs that they hate because the idea of starting over is a scarier thought. We are comfortable taking the same road home from work daily because exploring an alternate route may get us lost or take more time. As physical therapists why would we want to limit the use of ultrasound machines and TENS units to learn a new technique when those things have worked and continue to work for our patients in the past? Why would we utilize direct access to its fullest extent when we can continue to have MD “approval”, and continue to share the responsibility. Why would we go above and beyond what is expected as a member of the APTA, when other members continue to do the work that we all benefit from? Its a sense of security, its easier and if its not broken dont fix it, right?
In an ever-changing world such as healthcare, we face challenges to what we believe daily. The problem is that in learning or trying something new, we usually have to let go of something we once believed in.
“The problem is that getting better means putting at risk what you’ve already gained, and that butts up against a powerful human bias of preferring to avoid losses over acquiring gains, called “loss aversion.””
Like an unpaid psychologist, Scot pulled me back from the edge of madness and reminded me of something that I have learned once before on my APTA travels and from trusted mentors, but seemed to forget when it mattered most. Embrace discomfort!