The Monday Memo
May 21, 2018 PITT DPT STUDENTS
PTs as Leaders
Leadership dons many colors. There is no singular quality that defines it, and no distinct formula that produces the individuals who exhibit it. The act of leading is a multifaceted endeavor imbued with nuance and shaped by instinct. As budding leaders in the field of physical therapy, these are ideas that should not be readily forgotten – especially in the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare – and as such, particular attention should be given to the foundational traits that allow us to have the greatest impact among our colleagues and those we rehabilitate. As we look to “transform society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience”, it is essential that we commit ourselves to visionary thinking and refining the skills required to communicate those thoughts.
Leadership is many times firmly associated with the qualities most representative of delegation. While unfortunate, this is not without merit as leading requires the ability to coordinate many individuals and unify an effort in the direction of one common goal. In physical therapy we see this most commonly in the collaboration between therapists, assistants, rehab aides, and administrative staff. However, to see leadership solely in this capacity is both an incomplete and one-dimensional assessment. The act of delegation is simply a conduit for the communication of a greater vision, and without vision the operation ceases to exist. Whether it be for a single patient or an entire cohort, a leader in physical therapy cannot affect change in absence of innovative thought. Patient care is a dynamic process because the patients are inherently dynamic themselves. They are fluid in both their internal and external environment, and the only way we can accommodate this is if we are fluid as well. We cannot afford to be static and we most certainly cannot expect to apply cookie-cutter methodology to every patient of the same ailment. We must be malleable and adaptable so that we can best execute the overarching goals of our care and meet the needs of the individual.
Equally important to the formation of this vision is how we choose to communicate it. Patient care is a complex network of various healthcare professionals and the community in which the patient exists. The success of our care is ultimately dependent upon how we articulate our course of action and the interventions we utilize. How we construct that communication comes first from the insight we glean from the patient profile. From here we can begin to devise how we conduct our patient interview and collect the information necessary for formulation of a plan of care. Further synthesizing that information is entirely dependent upon our ability to listen to not only the patient’s story, but also its subtext. To put it simply, our insight only goes as far as our willingness to listen, and its quality only as strong as our empathy. We may guide the patient through their rehabilitation, but they ultimately guide our treatment decisions. Through this marriage of insight, active listening, and empathy we can develop the clearest picture of our patients and a much more linear, streamlined approach to communicating their care.
Though a leader in physical therapy is not limited these skills in practice, they are essential foundational pieces on which to build our influence. By situating these elements within our scope of care, we will not only initiate a transformation, we will also pioneer progress.
-Holden Sakala, SPT