Kelly Janak, PT Student, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX
Graduation Date: August 2023
Read her winning Essay below:
Although health is typically viewed in a more physical sense, I have come to recognize and appreciate the more cognitive-emotional aspects as well. Many times, patients who have suﬀered an injury or are coping with life-changing diagnoses might experience a loss of control. One of the things that drew me to physical therapy is that it is a profession with the goal of empowering patients. Unlike other professions that beg patient cooperation while treatments are passively applied to the patient during the healing process, physical therapy teaches patients to heal themselves through a more active role. However, I have learned that without patient investment, physical therapy treatment is not as eﬀective. Time engaged in therapy during the treatment session alone is not enough to provide a substantial impact. The patient must spend time training outside of the treatment sessions, otherwise the positive eﬀect of physical therapy may grow stagnant. Without patient buy in and commitment, even the most ideal treatment plans will lack eﬀectiveness. The patient must be motivated to take an active role in their health and to continue to train outside of appointments. Truly a large part of therapy involves establishing a therapeutic alliance with the patient and inspiring their engagement in the healing process. Although it’s undeniable that my education and training have expanded my knowledge and understanding of how to identify and treat patients with diﬀerent diagnoses, it has also expanded my ability to motivate my patients, my understanding of how to relate to my patients, and willingness to seek the most eﬀective treatments for each individual.
As I have learned more about the multitude of beneﬁts that physical therapy can provide, I have gained a variety of reasons to support engagement in physical therapy. If a patient can understand the vast beneﬁts of physical therapy, such as the improvements in health, functionality, longevity, and emotional well-being that exercise can provide, then they are much more likely to not only be driven to be engaged and compliant in their therapy experience, but also enjoy it and continue to exercise after discharge from physical therapy. It is also important to keep therapy exercises salient to the patient. Not everyone enjoys doing squats, bicep curls and abdominal crunches. For individuals who don’t enjoy these exercises, exercise can seem tedious and unappealing. But using creativity to create “non-conventional” exercises that appeals more to the patient’s personal interests can be more exciting. If the patient is doing treatment that directly relates to their hobbies, interests, and personal goals, they are much more likely to enjoy their experiences in physical therapy, which will make them more likely to do the work involved in order to accomplish the goals of their physical therapy program. For example, if the patient really enjoys gardening, they can be prescribed exercises pertaining to gardening so that the patient can be engaged in exercises that are meaningful to them and directly observe the correlation of their dedication to their treatments and their increased ability to engage in their activities that are important to them at a higher capability. I hope to provide a positive beneﬁt to my patients in the form of helping them to see that their hard work can pay oﬀ in ways that are meaningful to their individual lives so that they can view exercise as something that is empowering rather than menial. I hope to not only improve their therapy experience but drive them to continue to lead a healthy lifestyle even after discharge as they strive for continued improvement in functional ability through motivation derived from things they love to do.
Patients will not be motivated by health care professionals that they do not trust. As part of the nature of the career, physical therapists spend much more time with patients than their counterparts from other health professions. This provides a substantial opportunity to either build a great therapeutic alliance, or tear it down. In pursuit of the ﬁrst, I have learned that often the best way to establish patient trust is through understanding and openness. According to evidence, patients trust healthcare providers who they believe truly have the patient’s best interests at heart. However, in the hustle and bustle and time restraints of daily work life as a physical therapist, it can sometimes be diﬃcult to take the time to establish an actual relationship with patients. In a career that specializes in people, it can become an unfortunate consequence to lose recognition of the sense of humanity that patients possess. But I think that if I continue to value each individual and recognize their inherent worth, I can maintain a recognition of the dignity that each human being possesses without losing sight of that in burnout. I will strive to always show compassion and patience and respect to each of my patients. Beyond that, I hope to continue to try to understand my patients on a deep level by trying to make a meaningful connection and by listening. My work with diverse populations has further aﬃrmed the fact that every individual is unique and I can only know and understand each person and their needs by actively learning to understand them. I will also strive to maintain a personal sense of openness, honesty, and humility to further foster a healthy relationship. I hope that establishing authentic relationships with my patients will not only help them become more engaged in physical therapy and make the experience more enjoyable for them, but also encourage them to make more meaningful relationships with other individuals.
Lastly, and more obviously, it is important to seek out applicable current evidence-based practice and be in constant pursuit of personal growth within my role. Even with the best intentions, if I am not eﬀective at my job, I will not be a very good physical therapist. Also, being an adept physical therapist can help with encourage patient investment in physical therapy. Patients will have a greater acceptance of physical therapy if they can witness the beneﬁts that are provided from the treatments ﬁrsthand. Seeing as physical therapy is a relatively new profession which is constantly evolving, it is imperative to keep up with evidence-based practice by researching new treatment strategies that will be eﬀective to implement in my patient population every day and to encourage co-workers to do the same. In order to best serve my patients, I recognize that it is my duty to be well-informed on eﬀective treatment strategies that will beneﬁt my patients and adjust my practices to develop alongside current research in order to ascertain that my treatments are eﬀective for my patients. Along with this, I aspire to always be improving my clinical skills and knowledge. I will pursue increased proﬁciency in the realm of physical therapy so that I can develop into a professional who can provide the greatest beneﬁt to my patients. I understand that they are trusting me to guide them towards better health and capability and I want to honor that by continuously improving my ability to deliver great service to my patients. I hope to become shrewder in identifying potential diagnoses and practices that might not be healthy for my patients and become more proﬁcient on educating them on methods to improve their health. I hope to be successful in empowering them to lead a healthier life, even after they have ﬁnished with physical therapy so that they can be more free from the constraints and complications of poor health. By improving my knowledge and skills, I hope to eﬀectively help them not only to return to their baseline health, but inspire them to continue to rise to a higher state of health so that they can enjoy their lives to a higher degree.
Through my devotion to patient motivation, relationship, and evidence-based practice and personal development, I hope to spark my patients to be empowered to take control of their own health, rather than maintain a passive role. I wish for them to be driven to lead a more healthy and full life in whatever capacity is available to them, so that they can enjoy the beneﬁts in functionality, energy, emotion, and well-being. I hope to encourage them to see healthy living and improved function not as an unattainable goal or as undesirable work, but as a natural and enjoyable part of their everyday life.