Many people including patients ask me what got me into this field? Why I chose physical therapy over something else in the healthcare field? And the most frequently asked question…do you like what you do? I can’t even count how many times someone has asked me one or all of these questions, but my answers never change, especially the last one.
Ever since I can remember I knew I wanted to do something in the healthcare field. I didn’t always know that physical therapy would be my calling. When I was younger I always said I wanted to deliver babies. If anyone asked me that is what I was going to do. It wasn’t until later when I found out exactly what had to be done when I decided that just wasn’t for me! That didn’t switch my focus because I wanted to be a helper. I wanted to be someone that could make a difference in someone’s life. Now, there are many ways to do that outside of healthcare, but the body just always fascinated me.
I can still remember in high school I wanted to take an anatomy and physiology class. I was a B/C student. I even had gotten a D in a few classes. I wasn’t a bad student, I just never really applied myself unless it was in something I enjoyed to learn about. You could tell in my grades, math and science were always my strong suit. History and language arts not so much. I will never forget when I signed up for the anatomy class and the teacher who was going to be in the class called me to her class room during a study hall. She asked me why I signed up for the class. I explained to her that I wanted to learn more about the body and I planned on being in the healthcare field at some point and this would help me get started. She looked at me with a very serious look and said, you know this is an advanced class to take right? Looking at your grades I’m not sure this would fit you. She said I take my position here serious and try to make sure that I have the right students. So you know what I did? I said yes I know that this is an advanced class and my grades don’t reflect the type of student that I can be. My grade will show you how serious I am when I’m done with this class. She agreed to allow me to take the class even though she was hesitant. Well, needless to say I got an “A” in the class and proved her wrong! I knew I would do well because I enjoyed what I was learning. This started my obsession of the human body and after this one class I realized that health care was going to be my route.
I played baseball and basketball in high school and eventually played baseball in college. Before applying to schools for college I decided that I wanted to go into Athletic Training. I loved sports and this seemed like the right fit for me. I knew I didn’t want to go far, but I didn’t want to commute either. I had applied to 5 colleges and got accepted to 4 of them. Waynesburg University was at the top of my list. They had a great AT program, it was only about an hour and 15 minutes away and I was going to play baseball there. So I decided to accept my acceptance and move to Green County PA. This is also where I met my wife who is really responsible for my grades in college. If it wasn’t for her studying with me, I would have never made it through some of those classes I had to take!
I started baseball about 2 weeks after school started and it was great! It took up a lot of my free time, but I didn’t mind because I loved to play. The other part of my time was spent in class as well as trying to get hours in the clinic for AT. It turned out that in order to start doing anything with athletes you needed a minimum of 2,000 hours in the clinic observing! I thought wow! How am I going to find time for this? Well, after a long time thinking about what I wanted to do I made the decision to change my major. I know what you are thinking. You changed your major because you didn’t want to do the observation hours? I thought you wanted to do something in the health care field? Well, you have to realize that I was 18 at the time. My number 1 priority besides baseball was socializing and of course partying. Baseball took up most of my time, class took up the other and I wanted to have fun. Something had to give. So I switched to Biology (pre-physical therapy). This was kind of like a pre-med degree and gave me avenues to go to.
My freshman year anatomy teacher was Dr. Giles! He was an awesome teacher! He made things fun and easy to learn. And since I loved anatomy he made the class that much better. But Dr. Giles was not only an anatomy teacher…he was also a Chiropractor. I thought, this might be my calling. It just seemed like a good idea. He had great stories of how he made patients well and how he helped so many people. It got me thinking. Over the next few years I thought about what I wanted to do after college. I knew I was going to go on to grad school it was just a matter of where. In my second to last semester I had to do 200 observation hours in a health care facility. It could have been anywhere. They gave me a list to choose from. The list included chiropractic, medical doctor, surgical center, dentist and then physical therapy. At this point I had been tossing up chiropractic and physical therapy. I just was not sure about the differences. So I decided to go to a PT clinic. I had had PT in the past on 2 different occasions for my knee and my elbow. From what I remember about it I really enjoyed it and it helped get me back to playing baseball of course!
During my time at the clinic I met so many different people who had so many different injuries and pains. Some worse than others. I loved the fact that patients would come in with problems and leave able to do the things that they couldn’t before. Physical therapy was able to get patients back to doing what they loved. I wanted to do that! I wanted to be a helper, a healer and a person that people came to to get them well. Needless to say, after my 200 hours, which took me about 4 months to get, I was dead set on physical therapy school. I started applying right away. I had 3 choices for where I wanted to go. Chatham University was my first choice, Pitt was my second and Slippery Rock was my last. I remember where I was when I found out I got accepted. I was in Cocoa Beach Flordia on spring training for baseball. I called home daily to talk to my parents and my mom had said I got a letter from Chatham. I told her open it. She opened it and read that I had been accepted to Chatham University’s Physical Therapy program! And you can say the rest is history!
Here I am today 12 plus years in the field and I love being a helper, a healer and most importantly a person someone can come to to get them well! There is nothing like seeing someone come into the clinic miserable, visibly in pain, unable to do the things they love and on crutches. And months later seeing them smile because they are running, walking, playing with their kids and doing everything they love to do because of something that you were able to do for them! So to answer the question of do I like what I do? The answer will always be yes!