1. Stick to the main goal– the patient goal.
Whenever a patient comes to see us, our main goal must always be to achieve the goal that the patient requests.
Too many therapists stand ready to implement their skill set no matter what a patient presents with. This may be due to a lack of diversity of treatment options, a poor knowledge of pathology and accepted treatment protocols, or simply apathy.
You owe it to yourself and the paying patient who puts trust in you, to be competent and confident in your service provision. To achieve this, you need to have all the necessary fundamentals. Adequate knowledge of anatomy, pathology, aeitiology, epidemiology and treatment protocol for each. You will then know if the techniques you have in your arsenal are indicated or not.
With this knowledge you can then focus on the patient request and realistically know if you have the skill set to deliver it.
2. Don’t be afraid to explore. Get out of your comfort zone.
If you are a young therapist, I encourage you to explore all types of treatment protocols– well beyond what you might initially be interested in.
You might be surprised where your passion lies.
Get out of your comfort zone– treat anyone who presents to you. Fatten your skills, your options and your experiences. As time progresses, you will eventually know where your skill set lies and the kind of patients you enjoy helping. Then you can start to get skinny, specialise in a particular area and develop a reputation in that field.
Be patient. Developing the competence and confidence in any field, developing the knowledge beyond that of the next therapist, takes time. Be passionate, be consistent, these attributes flow into your treatment demeanour and patients will notice and appreciate it. Find a mentor and annoy them. Every young therapist should consider and explore all these options.
3. Educate your patients.
Some of the most productive patient outcomes I’ve ever had, I didn’t lay a hand on them.
Sometimes, it’s all about simply educating the patient on what their situation is, telling them they’re going to be okay and empowering them to look after themselves. Fear of the unknown, the feeling of helplessness, not knowing what to do– all this can hypersensitise a patient’s body and mind and potentially catastrophise their situation.
In essence, you’re being their mentor, teaching them the fundamentals of taking control of their situation and giving them the tools to do so. Patient empowerment is a gift we have to give. Get to know your pathologies, their aetiology, epidemiology and prognosis. Often, this is all a patient needs to know.
4. Know your limits.
You will know your ego is in check and your career is on track when without hesitation, you refer a patient to someone else.
It’s about knowing and accepting that other therapists may have a better skill set to accomplish the patients desired outcomes. Referring a patient is not a patient lost. It’s a patient being treated with the respect they deserve. It is also an enormous opportunity to develop a reciprocal relationship with another Therapist, another clinic, that in the long term may become a healthy means of patient referral and an enormous source of knowledge for you to learn.
5. Understand what your options are.
If you decide you need to alter muscle length or tonicity as a component of your treatment, you need a thorough understanding of muscle physiology and neurophysiology to do so.
How you can affect a golgi tendon organ, muscle spindles, reciprocal inhibition, fascial mobility, alpha motor neuron excitability, tendon reflexes and even what tone actually is, are all important and a ‘need to know’. Understanding how different types of stretching affects tone, the different PNF techniques work in reducing or increasing tone, what direct digital pressure will do in comparison to a shear force directed to the MTJ or away from the MTJ, what digital pressure to a trigger point will achieve.
There’s a lot to learn but anything less than competency is guessing. Get your head in the books. And strive to be better each and every day.
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