After my interview with Jimmy, a physical therapist, I learned that effective communication is a crucial part of successful rehabilitation. Without strong communicative skills, it can be nearly impossible to treat a patient thoroughly. Jimmy explained that the level of motivation in each patient varies so much that it is important to tailor a program to meet their specific needs, abilities, and willingness to keep up with the regimen. He also said that being a physical therapist requires much more interpersonal communication skills than a doctor or surgeon. Additionally, Jimmy expressed the need for more psychology and communication classes in the educational curriculum for physical therapists in training instead of such a heavy emphasis on biology and chemistry.
One of the more interesting things that I learned from the interview was that a physical therapist has to have exceptional “people skills” on top of being knowledgeable about the human body. The audio clip attached to this blog post is an excerpt from my interview in which Jimmy talks about the need for treating a person as a whole instead of just a single body part. This “treatment” includes psychological and emotional support in order to reduce pain and promote healing. If patients are not able to express themselves and if the therapists cannot properly comprehend their communication, then there is no sense in going through with physical rehab.
Jimmy has been a physical therapist for approximately twenty years, and in our interview he noted the dramatic shift in curriculum for PT students. Even though the profession has stayed the same, the classes that are required have more to do with biology and chemistry than with anatomy or kinesiology. Jimmy’s perspective, however, is that PT schools should offer more classes in psychology and communication in order to prep the students for daily interactions with patients. The knowledge of “hard” science is useful, but it will not make a therapist’s job easier when it comes time to meet with patients and assess their situations individually. As previously mentioned, a doctor can be concerned with an isolated body part but the physical therapist’s job is to heal the entire person. Creating a custom rehabilitation program can be much more rewarding when the therapist possesses the communication skills to be fully in sync with a patient’s needs or concerns.
This interview gave me an insightful look into physical therapy as a profession and the role that communication plays on a daily basis. I learned that putting a person through physical rehab is so much more than healing a single body part, and that a skilled therapist will work to boost the morale of the entire person. Above all else, being a compassionate listener and an effective communicator is perhaps the most important part of the job.