When I interviewed Jimmy, a physical therapist, I felt as though it was a very enlightening experience. We covered a variety of topics, including patient-provider communication, education for physical therapists, and the healthcare industry as a whole. I also gained some insight into how effective communication can contribute to the successful outcome of rehabilitation treatment. There were really no challenges or barriers to conducting the interview.
Jimmy explained that listening is perhaps the largest aspect of his job on a daily basis. He has to listen to patients’ problems and concerns regarding treatment as well as any sort of nonverbal expression of pain. He told me that many of his patients exhibit behaviors such as wincing or favoring an injured body part without actually telling him that something hurts. It then becomes his job to be attentive to those symptoms and resolve the issue swiftly. Physical therapy demands skilled listeners, and Jimmy says that gaining experience is the only way to develop such a skill.
Education for physical therapists has evolved significantly since Jimmy obtained his certification. When I probed him more on the subject, he said that the shift to more biology-oriented courses has made education on patient relations less significant. Instead of focusing so much on biology and anatomy, Jimmy says that more classes in communications and psychology would be beneficial to up and coming physical therapists. It would also prepare them more for the day-to-day interactions that they have with their patients.
The healthcare industry is something that has transformed the business model for any physical therapy clinic. In my interview, Jimmy explained to me that without larges monopolies, his small clinic would have had to shut down. The introduction of the Affordable Care Act removed a lot of choice for people seeking physical therapy, so they had to join a much bigger organization with many branches across the state of Florida in order to survive financially. He said that healthcare reform would provide them with the opportunity to compete again instead of being part of a conglomerate of clinics. It is an issue that has yet to be resolved, but Jimmy expressed his dissatisfaction with the barrier of cost and skyrocketing medical care costs. He is hoping that something gets done in order for the physical therapy industry to improve.
My interview with Jimmy was a compelling discussion about the field of physical therapy, the improvements that could be made to the educational curriculum, and the desire for a healthcare system that would allow the clinic to compete independently. Moreover, his knowledge of effective communication with patients was fascinating to listen to. Physical therapy is more than just treating an injury, it about the whole person, and I think that is something that Jimmy understands very well. Overall, it was an engaging interview with a lot of interesting insight into the world of physical therapy.