The Importance Of Non-PT-Related Experience

Man volunteering to help with recycling

Written by Anthony Pinto Da Costa

Anthony graduated from Queen's University with a Master of Science in Physical Therapy in 2019. Clinically, Anthony works in both private and public practice where he treats a wide-range of individuals with orthopaedic, cardiorespiratory, and neurological conditions. Outside of practice, Anthony is passionate about helping prospective students receive successful admissions into physio school.

March 6, 2022

It’s no secret that obtaining a wide variety of diverse work and volunteer experiences is incredibly important for your physiotherapy school applications. Many PT hopefuls do all that they can to get their foot in the door at private clinics, hospitals, and other rehabilitation settings so that they can gain exposure, learn more about the profession, and hopefully obtain a letter of reference one day.

Seeking out and stacking up these PT-related experiences is 100% the right idea; however, what many applicants tend to neglect in pursuit of these opportunities are non-PT-related experiences. And we totally get that… it makes logical sense to devote most of your time to being around PTs in order to eventually become a PT one day. But the reality is, non-PT-related experience may be much more important than you think it is – you just don’t know it yet.

Before we go any further, let’s first define non-PT-related experience.

Simply put, non-PT-related experience is any work or volunteer experience that is not directly related to physiotherapy (I’m sure you guessed that). Some examples include involvement in clubs or groups, mentorship roles, and community service. This, however, is not an exhaustive list – there are tons of examples under the umbrella of non-PT-related experience.

So, now that you know what it is, let’s get right into the good stuff. In this blog post, we’ll go over 3 reasons why non-PT-related experience is crucial for both your physio school applications and your future career as a healthcare provider. 

1: It shows your well-roundedness

When physio school admissions committees review applications, this is what they’re looking out for. How well-rounded you are is massively important. PT schools seek out individuals who check off all or most of the boxes; they’re not interested in those who are “one note.”

Engaging in a variety of non-PT-related experience shows the admissions panel that you have skills, interests, and hobbies outside of the physiotherapy realm. Whether you’re a math tutor who loves to teach, a rock climbing instructor who’s passionate about helping others reach the summit, or a singer who’s all about composing new music – these are all great ways to showcase that you’re a well-rounded person.

Don’t get us wrong, applicants who come off as being super career-oriented are great, but those who give the impression that they’re a well-rounded individual and not just someone who’s “jumping through hoops” to get into PT school are much more appealing.

A career in healthcare can be very demanding and taxing, so if you’re “all physio, all the time”, you’re putting your professional survival at risk. Having hobbies and interests outside of your profession are critical for a fruitful career. Don’t forget that!

2: It speaks to your concern for the wellbeing of others

In order to be a great healthcare professional, you need to care deeply about the wellbeing of the people around you. One of my favourite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt is, “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” As a current practicing physiotherapist myself, I can attest to the truth of this statement.

In addition to putting your well-roundedness on display, non-PT-related experience is your way of spotlighting your involvement in activities that serve to improve the wellbeing of people around you, as well as society at large. Some examples include helping out with charities and fundraisers, mentoring individuals, and assisting on crisis lines.

PT school admissions committees want good people who genuinely care in their programs. Their job is to ensure that the people they admit are pursuing this profession for the right reasons. So, above all else, show that you actually care.

Before we move on to #3, I’m going to say this one more time so that you don’t forget it: “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

3: It will help you relate to more people

Any physiotherapist will tell you that we’re in the business of people. Each and every day we’re interacting with a wide variety of individuals across the lifespan. Given that, being a relatable person is imperative to being a successful and effective clinician.

To put things into context, here’s what your morning schedule as a physiotherapist in a private clinic can look like on any given day:

9:00 am – 12 year old boy who injured his arm playing baseball.

9:30 am – 43 year old single mother with 3 kids who’s stressed out and dealing with neck pain.

10:00 am – 83 year old man seeing you after a hip replacement surgery.

10:30 am – 8 year old girl with a developmental disability.

11:00 am – 56 year old male construction worker dealing with recurrent rotator cuff issues.

As a PT, you need to be able to have extended conversations with these people, develop trust and rapport, and establish a strong therapeutic relationship. I know I’m pounding the pavement with my point here, but in order to do all this, being relatable is KEY!

Fortunately, taking on a wide range of non-PT-related experiences can help you show your ability to relate to other people. Typically, when you’ve put yourself in a variety of non-clinical settings, you have more opportunity to converse with and learn from a bunch of new and different people. With reps, you naturally develop better communication skills and become more confident in yourself in social situations. These skills that you develop during your non-PT-related experiences are highly transferable to any healthcare setting.

Being a “people person” will take you very far in the physiotherapy profession. There’s absolutely no doubt about that.

Final thoughts

You’ve now caught wind of 3 main reasons why gaining non-PT-related experience is incredibly important for your PT school applications, as well as your wellbeing and success as a future clinician. We hope that you learned something from reading this blog post.

If PT school is in your future and you’re looking for some guidance on how to find the right work and volunteer experience for you, we’re more than happy to help you out with that. It’s what we do! Check out our PT Application Booster course today.

Thanks for reading.

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