PT Career ?’s: Classes, What to Wear, etc.

Recently I was asked by a college student to answer some questions about the PT career.  Below are some of the ones that I thought were more interesting amongst the 9-10 questions I was asked to answer.

If you were to go through college all over again, what class(es) would you feel were the most important for the job (could be ones already taken or wished you had taken)?
Physics.  As an orthopedic PT, physics is still something I use a lot to this day to analyze  human movement.  Using the theories behind physics allows me to understand why certain movements are more prone to injury, and also how to decrease the forces as necessary to help decrease the risk of injuries.  Physics actually explains how we move really well.
I wish I took a communication class that involved story telling and how to relate to someone or how to better explain difficult concepts to someone.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to my point across better by using stories and analogies.  (See my previous post on analogies here.)  But if I was able to use real life stories earlier in my career, it means more to the patient.  Instead of my directly telling patients what to do and why, I can just explain what happened to so-and-so who has a similar issues as the patient sitting in front of me.

What would you suggest someone in this field wear to an interview?
This really depends on where you’re interviewing.  PT can be very casual as a job, so some interns and new grads feel they can “slack” and dress down.  For me, I believe in always dressing professionally which means “dressing to impress”.  The reason is twofold.  It will not hurt you to be the best dressed in the room when interviewing or meeting your potential colleague or boss for the first time.  For men, a suit and tie, or at least a jacket.  Even khaki’s, dress shirt (tucked in) and tie would be okay.  For women, slacks or “about” knee length dress and button down shirt or sweater, with or without a jacket.  Shoes are also very important for women as there are many options.  Dressy 1-2 inch heels, ballet flats or clogs.  I personally don’t feel knee high boots are appropriate to match with a skirt for a job interview.  Remember, professional is not the same as if you’re dressing to go out with friends or out on a date.  The second reason to “dress to impress” is you’ll feel more confident when you’re dressed to impress.  You’ll hold your head higher, and shoulders back, demonstrating interest and confidence in the job that you’re applying for.
First day on the job?
This will depend on where you’re working and the dress code.  You can’t go wrong with khaki’s and polo, as this is the staple for any PT.

Any suggestions for others going into this career?
There’s a lot of specialties within PT.  The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialities (ABPTS) has eight specialty designations.  And within the specialties there are sub-specialities.  For example, orthopedic manual therapy is a sub-specialty of orthopedics.  Pick one that you love and don’t be surprised if this changes through PT school and through out your career, or don’t pick a specialty at all, and be a generalist.  You can’t go wrong as long as you enjoy helping people return to “moving.”

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