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The Power of Empathy
Empathy may be the most important asset to a doctor. It’s one thing to know how to heal an injury, but quite another to know how it feels. You can learn how to treat a herniated disk from a textbook, but no amount of reading can show you the pain your patients are actually experiencing. That’s why I’m glad I came into the world of physical therapy from the patient side. Why I Became a Therapist
As a kid, I was always active in sports, which meant getting a lot of injuries. During basketball season of my sophomore year, I needed the help of a physical therapist for the first time. I was playing forward and I went for a fast break down the court. That’s when my leg went out from under me.
“My history with sports injuries made it easy for me to relate to the athletes I treated. I understood both their pain and their drive to recover.”
love of athletics. I studied hard and played hard, earning my doctorate while finding the time to stay active. My history
I hadn’t been fouled; my knee had subluxed. I experienced these minor dislocations of my kneecap growing up, and all the running had made the issue worse. When it gave out, it gave out hard. I hit the ground in agony and had to limp off the court. I knew if I wanted to keep playing the sport I loved, I needed medical help. So, I went to a physical therapy clinic and began the long rehab process. That’s when I first learned the value of a great therapist. They not only helped me overcome my injury, they helped me understand it. When anything goes wrong with your body, it can be a scary thing. Having the knowledge of the root cause of my injury, and how to prevent it from recurring, was a great comfort. With my therapist’s help, I got back to playing basketball. Of course, I’ve always been a believer in giving your all on the court, so my days of sports injuries were far from over. I was in and out of the clinic for a few years, and the profession really grew on me. After I graduated high school, I went straight into a PT education program. I’d always known I wanted to work in a field where I could help people. After my time rehabilitating my knee, I saw that physical therapy offered to combine my compassion with my
with sports injuries made it easy for me to relate to the athletes I treated. I understood both their pain and their drive to recover.
Recently, I had another empathy-building experience. I’d just gotten done playing some competitive basketball when I threw out my back. Turns out I had a herniated disk, something that I’ve helped many patients recover from but had never experienced myself. This made for some interesting moments in the wellness center as I went through the rehabilitation process right beside my patients. This brought my mind back to the importance of being able to empathize with people in my line of work. Sure, you can be compassionate to someone without knowing what their injury feels like. But I’ve found patients really appreciate it when you have firsthand experience of what they’re going through. I remember what it was like to be a patient. I remember how much of a difference it made to understand the problem I was experiencing and being given the knowledge to fix it. That’s why I strive to not only heal, but to educate. I’m so fortunate to have found a clinic that shares that philosophy with me.
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