Back in November 2018, I featured on The MVMT PTs podcast (The PT Coffeecast) to discuss the process of creating my YouTube channel, as well as why I chose to become a physiotherapist. In the first few minutes of the episode, Will Nicholson – a host of the podcast – mentioned something that’s always stuck with me. He said, “most people don’t grow up wanting to be a physiotherapist, it’s something that you arrive at.”
This couldn’t be more congruent with my journey to becoming a physiotherapist. A career in physiotherapy was definitely not something I wanted to pursue from the jump. In fact, there were a ton of other careers and aspirations that I had in mind prior to PT, such as working as a high school history teacher, a lawyer, a pilot, an osteopathic manual practitioner, and even Godzilla (for real though, my mom will verify this one for you).
It wasn’t until I started to realize what my interests were, who I was as a person, and what made me “tick” that I decided to go down the PT route. As I became more in-tune with myself, I began to put all the pieces together and was certain that this was the right career for me.
As you can imagine, my “arrival” to physiotherapy was a long process. It didn’t happen overnight, which is why it’s impossible for me to reduce it to one “aha!” moment or reason. That being said, there are a number of reasons why I chose this career, so let’s discuss them.
#1: I’m a people person
Anyone who knows me can vouch for me as being a people person. I’m sociable and have a natural affinity for learning more about others. Branching outside of my inner circle to build new relationships and networks is something I enjoy doing. I believe most of this stems from my family always encouraging me to be understanding and open to people from different walks of life. As a result, being able to connect with others never seemed to be an issue for me.
Once I started volunteering in multiple physiotherapy settings, I quickly realized the importance and value of having strong interpersonal skills. As a PT, you really need to be able to build trust and rapport with a wide-variety of people across the lifespan. Whether your patient is a 10-year-old boy, a 32-year-old new mother, or an 81-year-old retiree – a therapeutic relationship must be established for a successful outcome.
Naturally, this was my favourite part of being in a physiotherapy setting. As a volunteer, I was primarily responsible for administering therapeutic modalities such as hot packs, TENS, and ultrasound. With this, came a lot of face-to-face interactions with a host of different patients. I found myself thoroughly enjoying both the depth and length of conversation I was able to have with patients. All the other healthcare interactions I had in my life at that point were with doctors. As you probably know, these would last 5-10 minutes max. I always felt rushed, and I never got out everything I wanted to say, so I wasn’t accustomed to seeing a healthcare setting like this before. And as a side note, that’s no offense to MDs at all – they have to work within the confines of their practice and I totally understand that. All that being said, I loved how physiotherapists had the time to allow patients to tell their whole story and feel heard. Given my values, character, and personality, it seemed to be a great fit for me.
To this day, the length of time I get to connect and interact with patients in my practice is still one of my favourite parts of being a physiotherapist.
#2: I’m able to apply academic areas of interest to real life
As I mentioned earlier, up until the start of grade 12, I was spearheading down the history and/or law path. Aside from phys ed, those were the two subjects that I actually looked forward to learning more about in class. Although I was convinced that these fields of study were for me, I still (thankfully) managed to keep an open mind to other opportunities.
Despite being “sold” on history and/or law, biology always seemed to loom in the back of my mind. Learning about the body was always something that I was interested in, but definitely more as a hobby, as opposed to a career choice. It wasn’t until I took the exercise science course in my first semester of grade 12 that the switch certainly flipped for me.
The content covered in this course completely captivated me. Being introduced to basic concepts of anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics, while learning how they applied to movement, sport, and life participation had me more engaged than any subject I’d ever studied before. This stuff got me excited. I’d crack open my books at home after school almost every night to look over the content purely out of interest and curiosity. That’s when I knew that this hobby of mine suddenly turned into a bona fide career consideration for me.
I vividly remember saying to myself, “I don’t know what I want to do, but I know I want to do something with this… and if I don’t, I know I’ll look back and regret it.”
That same semester, I took the plunge and added Western’s Kinesiology program to my shortlist of university program options. Getting accepted about 5 months later was my biggest and most exciting accomplishment in my life at the time – and quite frankly – it’s what opened the door to physiotherapy for me.
As I progressed through the program, my interest in learning, integrating, and applying anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics to real life continued to balloon. It was never monotonous. It was never boring. It never felt like a chore. It was something that I always hoped I would stumble upon in my life, because it was something that I was both good at and enjoyed.
Through research and self-exposure, I quickly realized in the first couple years of my degree that physiotherapy would allow me to apply these academic areas of interest every day throughout my career. Physiotherapists are experts in human movement and function, and they rehabilitate those experiencing injury and illness that affect the musculoskeletal, cardiorespiratory, and neurological systems. This had my name written all over it.
After getting my feet wet in physiotherapy settings in both a clinic and hospital, there was no looking back for me. I had no doubt about eventually being able to wake up and enjoy what I do every day, and I’m happy to say today that I was bang on with that.
#3: I love sports
Yes, I realize it’s predictable and cliché to mention this, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my love for and participation in sport over the years didn’t contribute to my “arrival” at physiotherapy.
Growing up, I was fortunate enough to play basketball, soccer, football, and volleyball. In my early years, sport pretty much consumed my entire life. It was my main source of social involvement and physical activity.
Sport taught me a lot, and it equipped me with some important transferable skills for life. However, the most relevant lesson I learned from sport (as it relates to my career decision) is this: Injuries suck, but unfortunately… they’re part of the game. Luckily for me, I didn’t experience many injuries in my elementary and high school days, but many of my teammates around me did. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I sustained my fair share of injuries (those damn ankles!). Seeing others sidelined due to an injury never sat well with me, but eventually experiencing this myself amplified that feeling tenfold.
These experiences motivated me to go down a path that would allow me to play an important part in getting people back in the game. In my first year of university, a professor delivered a presentation to my class about a very intriguing opportunity offered through Western’s Kin program. He told us all about a field experience practicum course that would allow 4th year kin students to be an athletic trainer for a varsity sports team. I remember saying in my head, “I’m 100% doing this” once the presentation ended. The course only offered 30 spots in a program of 300+ students, so I knew I had to do everything I could over the next few years to separate myself from the pack.
On April 20th, 2016, I jumped for joy, as I was offered a spot in the course with my first choice team – the men’s varsity basketball team. My experience working with this team was everything I imagined and more. Working day in and day out with high-level athletes to help prevent and manage acute and chronic injuries during the playing season was incredibly rewarding. It helped me understand where I wanted and needed to be in life, which was in a career that would enable me to do this for more athletes for many years to come. Physiotherapy has given me that.
Working now as a physiotherapist in a private clinic affords me the opportunity to work with athletes regularly. Whether I’m helping someone rehab a concussion, an ankle sprain, or a fractured bone, I’m happy to be able to pay it forward by keeping athletes in the game.
#4: I yearn to help others
There’s something to be said about the emotional currency you receive after helping someone out. It’s a feeling that never gets old. Growing up, I was raised by parents who always gave more than they received, so helping others – even if it’s just a small gesture – has always been part of me.
The importance of helping others became more apparent to me as I progressed through my school years. In the early goings of my educational journey, I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. I felt like I was slow to grasp concepts and that I always asked the “stupid” questions. The teachers that I remember and adored the most were the ones that took the time to help me, encourage me, and instill confidence in me. As a kid who initially doubted himself, this was huge for me. When I got older, I knew I wanted to do the same for others.
During my first volunteer position at a physiotherapy clinic in my hometown, there were a number of occasions where I witnessed patients bringing in gifts and tokens of appreciation for the physiotherapist. Cookies, gift baskets, thank-you cards, you name it – I saw it all pour in. This was something I yearned for in my career. Now, now… don’t get me wrong, I’m not in it for the gifts (imagine that!!), but the point I’m trying to make is that this PT was able to help so many people in a way that was so important to them that they felt obliged to take the time to show their overwhelming gratitude to them. That’s what it’s all about. That’s how I’ve always wanted to help people. To know you’ve truly made an impact in someone else’s life is second to none, and seeing that over and over again in a physiotherapy setting further motivated me to go down this path.
Now that I’m a physiotherapist, it’s been amazing to help people get back to the activities that give their lives meaning each and every day.
One summer during my undergrad degree, I did a work-study placement as a data collector for a spinal cord injury research team. In a nutshell, my job consisted of patient file reviews and plugging numbers into an excel spreadsheet. Although the actual project was pretty cool, the work I had to do… wasn’t so riveting. I just couldn’t stand being confined to a desk, staring at a computer screen all day, and being in a small office with cubicles. I learned very, very quickly that this lifestyle was not for me. I needed to be on my feet and this was non-negotiable.
Although not as significant as some of the other reasons I’ve talked about in this blog post, having the liberty of being mobile during my work day made physiotherapy even more attractive for me. And I mean, come on… a career with the root word “physical” sealed the deal for me.
That being said, it’s important to mention that a career in PT isn’t solely a physical job – there’s some desk work that occurs as well. After seeing patients, physiotherapists have to document what occurred during their interactions. This includes what the patients said, exercises prescribed, treatment and education provided, progress reports, clinical impressions, and the plan going forward. These notes definitely take some time and effort to complete, but as a rough estimate, PTs spend about 80% of their day on their feet treating patients, and the remaining 20% doing documentation. This was a perfect balance for me.
I’m glad to say that it’s still the perfect balance for me! As a PT, I have the privilege of promoting physical activity to my clients every day, while also being physically active myself during my work day. It’s a win-win.
So, there you have it. My 5 reasons why I chose physiotherapy as a career. As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into choosing a career wisely.
If you’re trying to figure out what you want to do in life, my advice would be to take the time to reflect on who you are, what you’re good at, and what you genuinely enjoy doing. If that leads you to “arriving” at physiotherapy, then that’s great! We’d love to help you out with that. Contact us if you have any questions.
Thank you for reading.