To student or not to student

As a practicing PT in an outpatient orthopedic setting and having 5 PT schools in the area, I receive many requests to accept students on their clinical affiliations. This is one of the toughest choices that I and my fellow clinicians grapple with on a yearly basis. Unfortunately most of my coworkers are now of the mindset that taking on a student is not worth the effort involved. The #1 reason given is just a general lack of time, partly due to the need to keep up productivity, and partly just needing to be able to go home on time at the end of the night. The #2 reason given is that some students are just not that good, and having them around can drive away clients.

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I am personally of the mindset that having a student can be one of the most rewarding jobs of a practicing physical therapist. I think that a lot of physical therapists forget that we were students at one point, and if everyone thought a student was not worth the effort, none of us would be here. Therefore, I like to practice a little empathy, and put myself back in the shoes of a student.

I also like to think that I have a lot to offer a student that another PT may not be able to. Not to toot my own horn, but I think that I have some very useful skills, and those skills would be valuable in someone else’s hands as well. I am not just thinking about skills like movement assessment, massage and joint mobs (all of which are very important), but also “skills” like customer service, critical thinking, independence, and the importance of your brand.

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The other benefit from having a student is that he/she is able to teach me a thing or two. As much of a genius as I already am, the field is always changing and research is always evolving, and I do not always have the time to keep up with it all. A student can bring a perspective/information to the table that I may not have encountered. A student does not just teach me knowledge either, but also re-teaches me patience, which can sometimes be lost as I get comfortable in my day-to-day work.

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There were approximately 8,000 PT degrees awarded in 2012. If I can influence just one or two of the next 8,000, then I feel like I have accomplished something for the year. I hope that other PTs also have the same point of view. The future of our profession depends on it.

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