3 Tips to Help Graduate Physical Therapists Gain Confidence in the Role

Posted on: 6 April 2017

Completing your physical therapy degree is one thing, but gaining a proper appreciation of the role requires experience. Thankfully, as a new graduate, you can leverage the experience of other professionals who have been in a similar situation to your own. Below are three of the best tips that can help you develop as a new therapist:

You May Not Know Everything, But You Have Resources

There are usually two types of physical therapists that come out of college. Firstly, there are those who have found academic life to be relatively straightforward and feel like they know everything there is to know about physical therapy. Secondly, there are those that are overwhelmed by the thought of stepping into a real-life PT role and are worried that their lack of hands-on practice will cause them to make major mistakes.

The reality, however, is that everyone falls in between these extremes. It's important to understand that you don't know everything yet and there will be cases that you need help with. However, it's also important to appreciate that as a graduate therapist, you have a broad spectrum of knowledge that the vast majority of the public just do not possess. As such, you need to remain confident in your abilities and when you don't immediately know the solution to a problem, be comfortable enough to tell your patient this. Your mentors and colleagues, as well as medical journals and books, form a support net for when you don't have immediate answers—be sure to use these resources wisely.

Your Mentor Is Key to Your Development

As a newly qualified physical therapist, you need someone to help you navigate the tricky cases that you will handle on a day-to-day basis. It's important that you take the time to find yourself a great mentor; however, it's important to note that a great therapist doesn't necessarily make a great mentor. Rather than simply looking for a professional with impressive experience, you need to find a mentor whose teaching style resonates with you and who you get on well with on a personal level. This will ensure you are comfortable approaching your mentor for help and will significantly accelerate your development.

With that said, you should view your mentor as a sounding board for your own ideas or as someone who can help you with the nuances of the role. Many graduates make the mistake of relying too much on their mentor throughout their day-to-day job. This should be avoided as this will ultimately halt your development and won't give you the chance to demonstrate your competence in the role.

Continual Development Is Critical

You may feel that graduating college was the final hurdle on route to becoming a fully qualified physical therapist. But while this you have definitely cleared a major hurdle, you aren't finished yet. In fact, if you are passionate about becoming a great therapist, you will never stop learning.

Early on in your career, it's important to have a structured plan in place to develop as a professional. Your employer and mentor will likely have a path for you to follow to ensure you become competent within the role. However, as you grow in confidence, you need to take the initiative to continue learning and expanding your knowledge.

After a couple of years, you should consider what your long-term career goals are. Do you want to work with children? If so, try and find some great pediatric therapy courses in your area. Would you rather help rehabilitate athletes? Then try and find some local sports teams that you can volunteer with to gain experience. Whatever it may be, don't rely on anyone else for your continued development and make sure you actively seek out new opportunities.  

To learn more about your options, contact agencies that can help you connect with physical therapist jobs.