Personal Characteristics and Motivating Factors that Led you to Pursue the Profession of Physical Therapy

Essay Topic: Which personal characteristics and motivating factors have led you to pursue the profession of physical therapy?

My sneakers echoed off the linoleum as I jogged down the hallway at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. As a military dependent and high school volunteer I bounced from department to department in the largest military hospital outside of the United States, a wonderful opportunity for an undifferentiated youth interested in helping people. I was returning from a supply run as I rounded a corner and nearly toppled into somebody walking gingerly down the ramp. I hit the breaks hard, and landed in an unceremonious heap on the linoleum. The young GI, I had just narrowly avoided, had been walking down the ramp with a crutch in one hand and his IV pole in the other, he was now bent over in laughter.

I bounced to my feet and took in my almost victim, he looked barely older than I was and had been pretty beat up downrange with lacerations, burns, and bruises making themselves apparent on his exposed skin and peaking from behind bandages. “Man, I can’t wait to run again!” he managed between laughter as he glanced down as his completely casted right leg. Despite his levity the thought was sobering, and the impact of his injury hit me as it often did in the hospital. Who in the hospital was tasked with such an undertaking? “I started physical therapy last week and I’m headed home” he said eyes bright as if aware if hearing my thoughts, “those guys are tough, but they work miracles.” I smiled and apologized, as he continued on his way, but the damage had been done, I had physical therapy on the brain. I just had to be part of a department that worked miracles.

My time in the PT clinic at Landstuhl astounded me, every day I spent in the clinic or following a therapist to patients too injured to make it to the clinic seemed to reaffirm and reinforce my interest in the field. The aim of treatment was to get people moving and get people motivated, and the improvement I witnessed was amazing. From the long term patients to the wounded soldiers staying for just a few days, treatment was never simply physical; mental wounds eased as I watched therapists forming connections to their patients. The improvement beyond the physical progress that simply moving and being encouraged had on patients was amazing. My mind was made up; this was what I wanted to do with my life. I’d always known that I wanted to make a difference and help people, and now I knew how I was going to do it.

In the years since that initial spark I’ve dedicated myself to acquiring the skills, experience, and knowledge necessary to pursue my future as a physical therapist. Paying my own way through school I value my education and have strived to remain focused and steadfast during my undergraduate education, honing a work ethic to match my ambition. Majoring in Exercise Science, volunteering in PT clinics, becoming an active member within the pre-PT club, and pursuing my NSCA certification as a personal trainer have all been steps taken to help achieve that long-term goal. I’ve sought to truly understand the field of physical therapy in all its complexities shadowing several therapists with a variety of specialties in varies settings including pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, neurology, stroke rehab and military specific rehabilitation. I’ve earned a minor in psychology in the hopes of better understanding the mental side of healing and how people cope with injury. I’ve also used my position as a certified personal trainer to help students, faculty, and staff incorporate fitness routines into their daily lives. I’m passionate about helping people to see the long-term benefits of leading an active life, and as a physical therapist I would be provided the opportunity not only to treat patients but also to educate them, helping to prevent the loss of mobility by developing fitness-oriented programs for a healthier and more active lifestyle after injury.

In all honesty it’s probably a collection of a million little moments in a life full of sports and physicality, of broken bones and near misses that motivated me to pursue physical therapy, but that initial flutter of curiosity in hospital hallway stands out as a catalyst that has set me on my current path. I didn’t want to be the one that reconstructed his knee, or wrote him a prescription. I wanted to be the one that worked past the injury with him, that gave him back his mobility. Physical therapy is more than helping to heal physical injuries; it is an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives.