Monthly Archives: February 2015

Student Therapist Thoughts: The things you don’t learn in class

Arnheim’s Principles of Athletic Training list communication, stamina, empathy, sense of humour, intellectual curiosity, and ethics as the qualities necessary for an AT. What isn’t listed? The ability to self-motivate after a 14-16hr work day. All the multi-tasking. Being an educator, first-responder, student, personal trainer, counsellor, life coach, strength coach, nutrition advisor, substitute mother, and clinician all in the same day (sometimes all in the same hour). Self-promotion (most graduates are not walking into a job), and an excellent time manager (which includes keeping yourself sane).

As a intern, almost graduate, and someone who is attempting to set up their own business in a niche market that has been, for the most part, untouched by athletic therapy thus far.. these are all skills I’m developing on the fly. It’s not uncommon for me to hear from the clinicians I work under things like “you know what you don’t get taught in class..”, followed by any number of skills such as dealing with difficult patients, or insurance companies, or technicalities of charting or running a clinic. The skills and qualities I listed above often are seen as a given requirement, or a make it or break it set of abilities for young students or therapists. Many find that by the 3rd or 4th year of their studies, they aren’t cut out for the demands of this profession. Like any career, the ones who take a vested interest in personal development for the sake of their profession are usually the ones who thrive… and have fun while doing it.

In the clinic, working my way through the internship hours, I’ve found many things that are not even touched during lecture time. Including the silliest of things like getting cervical hot packs into the corresponding insulators, not getting adhesive IFC/TENS pads stuck to yourself while trying to apply to a patient, and not getting ultrasound gel everywhere. In the field, what they don’t teach you is that real live injuries don’t present themselves like the ones in your exam do (that goes for clinic too, actually), not every coach or parent will be convinced by your education, knowing how to interact with teenage athletes, the glamour of glove sweat, knowing how to layer appropriately so you will stay warm and be able to assess, tape, and stabilize too, and no matter how much you tell yourself you won’t lose your penlight.. you will always lose your penlight somewhere in the depths of your fanny pack.

All those things and more are things you learn when you step out into interning at various placements. You pick up little things here and there from the different therapists you work with (and all you upcoming students out there.. work with as many as you can!), and the different teams and events you frequent. You’ll learn that when you’re covering different events the sense the moment when athletes realize who you are and why you’re there (its usually signalled by the sudden onset of EVERYONE wanting ice, tape, a bandaid, or an ache assessed- most common with ages 17 and under). You’ll also learn how to manage burn out (in both yourself and your patients/athletes- often simultaneously), eating a half way balanced diet between time commitments, and how to carry a med bag, crutches, a coffee, and sometimes a table all in one trip.

When it comes to setting up your own image and stepping out into uncharted waters.. everything is fair game. Picking the brains of your mentors is the closest thing to a text book. Even then, figuring out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting your brand out there is touch and go. When you’re already promoting and part of a newish aspect of the health care system, working your way into a sport that is just beginning to integrate the skills you bring adds an extra challenge. What I’ve learned so far is that word of mouth is the best marketing. One happy client leads to another. Knowing  how to promote yourself online, and present yourself in person are key. Even more important is knowing how to sound like you know what you’re talking about even when you feel like your brain has melted. These things go for any young professional in any business. I see so many people around my age out there rocking their own ideas and making things happen for themselves, and I see just as many stuck doing other things. Kudos to all those out there doing what they do and loving it. Even with all the unknowns, learning curves, and long days.. I wouldn’t change it for the world!

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Intention and the questions no-one can answer

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I have this vague memory of driving to the city with my mom when I was 5 or 6 (ish). Being a typical kid of that age, I was asking non-stop questions, and when given an answer.. my response would be “but.. why?”. Whatever answer I got wasn’t enough to satisfy the questions I had in my head.

I’ve been feeling a lot like that kid lately. Though, my questions aren’t as black and white.

Last week I wrote about working on being at peace with things. One of those things is accepting that sometimes (quite a bit of the time) there won’t be answers for the questions I have. As someone who is fairly open with my personal dilemmas, whether it be via blogging or long discussions with those close to me.. it’s clear that more often the not, nobody else can answer or solve certain things for me. I’m rarely happy with the answers I get, anyway. The discussion can offer great insight and further opportunity for reflection, yes, but it won’t bring a clear cut set of directions or a guide to the next step. There isn’t a handbook for growing up, another fact both twenty-something me and mature, young professional me are equally upset about.

What does give answers?

Time.

Following gut feelings. Trusting intuition.

Reflection.

That’s what I’ve come up with so far, anyway.

What I’ve noticed is that life seems to put us where we need to be, if we are able to pay attention to it’s directions. Whether those places make sense or not at first, time and reflection allow for the reasoning and answers to become a little clearer. The directions for the next step are those subtle little gut feelings. The intuition is developed via those gut and heart guidances. It’s the learning to listen with patience that’s the hardest part.

I struggled at first when I began my University career and began falling in love with my profession with how I would have room in my life for two all-consuming passions. My sport and my career. I had two deep down feelings: I would have to give up one to be successful at the other, or I would have to find a way to make them both work. It took years for the answer to become clear. Answers I didn’t even know were answers until now.. where I am living the dreams of my past self.

As cheesy as it sounds, setting an intention on what you want in your life, and then going about your daily life- making effective and conscious choices that are best for you at whatever stage you’re at- can lead to you being where you wanted to be all along.

In a different example.. I spent a lot of years complaining and making criticisms on the way my sport (and many sports) are run. Yesterday I was voted onto the board of directors for my provincial association. My intentions (roundabout) for change and evolution in the equestrian sport came about in a way I didn’t necessarily predict, but in a way that I have a feeling will give me some interesting opportunities.

Choices. Change. Letting time pass and having patience. These things come a long with fear, frustration, disappointment.. but also knowledge, gratitude, joy. You can’t have one without the other. Positives cannot exist without the negatives.

Nobody can say what the future will bring. Nobody can answers the questions of your deepest desires and hopes. You can set your intentions in motion. You can reflect on what you’ve been dealt. You can decide how you’re going to learn and wait for the next clue. However you’re doing, don’t be blind to the choices in your control and the doors opening toward opportunity.

Philosophical post complete. Now for a quick weekly update.

As noted above, I am officially a part of the Board of Directors for MHJA. I will be running for the chair of athletic development, for which I am already brainstorming ideas for. February is here and I have a busy month of writing up my research and submitting it for a national writing award, putting together presentations for the seminars and clinics coming up quick in March, and a few other articles on the go as well. I’ve hit a great rhythm in my internships and in my personal life. I have at least two evenings off a week with which I actually take off. I even read a novel this week, between work and school.. “A Scientific Romance” by Ronald Wright (definitely a  must read!). This is probably the most sane I’ve been during a winter semester.. ever. At least I figured it out before I finished my degree, right?

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