Saturday, February 9, 2008

PT Education: Do we really need to reinvent the wheel?

I've enjoyed reading the posts on a PT student's blog recently. The posts express a genuine desire to become a good therapist and the confidence to share his thoughts with those who will listen. As much as I admire these qualities, a recent post had me thinking. The post lamented the current state of clinical education for physical therapists, and I would encourage you to read it.

On the surface, I certainly understand the student's need not to simply be a free source of productivity. I personally encountered experiences in my clinical education where I was thrown to the wolves and rapidly had a decent caseload. The process can be stressful and sometimes lead to a resentment of both the CI and the educational process in general.

Upon further review, I might encourage PT students out there to keep things in perspective. Take a look around at other institutions of clinical education: medicine, advanced nursing, dentistry, etc.... These professions have systems of clinical training that produce arguably the finest practitioners you are likely to encounter. I think if you were to speak to a 1st year medical resident (intern), you would hear about how overwhelming, stressful, and emotionally draining the process can be. Three years later, you are likely to encounter a highly competent physician within his/her field who is ready to take on any challenge without freaking out or making a really, REALLY bad decision.

We also have to concede the medical model of education is certainly not ideal. Long hours of trial by fire practice under stressful circumstances can wear the resident down to be sure. However the end result is hard to dispute. Has this system produced inferior physicians? Of course, but it has also produced some of the greatest and most innovative minds of modern medicine. If we look at this honestly, we have to admit that it is the individual and not the institution who is responsible for their training.

The current system of physical therapy education should always be questioned and scrutinized to make sure we give students the best opportunity to become great. However, before you get swept up in the next great reformation of our profession, ask yourself if you are taking every possible step toward making yourself a better student or clinician. To paraphrase a wise Chinese proverb: "Teachers open the door. You enter yourself."

Good luck and I look forward to seeing you in the clinic!

1 comment:

  1. Great post Roderick! Valid points from the "other side." The free source of productivity does not bother me so much as long there is something in return for the intern than there is currently being done today. I'm not saying the current model is completely flawed, but rather it could use some room for improvement. The medical model might not be ideal in PT, but I think something closer resembling a medical model is better than the current model. Love your blog, keep it up, and I'm definitely interested to hear what others have to say.