Can your family members explain what you do for a living? My father underwent open heart surgery last week. I have a per diem job that I have worked for the past six years treating this patient population in the ICU/critical care units, and yet the following arguments actually happened:
While trying to instruct my father on how to correctly progress the use of his incentive spirometer, he did not trust that I knew what I was talking about. He finally understood how to inhale slowly, but had not yet started paying attention to the numerical value…
Me: “Dad, try to get the blue disc above 500”
My father: “I only have to keep the ball between the arrows.”
Me: “Now that you can do that, you have to try to breath deeper, and you can see that by the numbers on the left.”
My father: “No I don’t, they didn’t tell me that, and it hurts.”
Me: “I know, but it’ll help you recover – you have to breath deeper, through the pain.”
My father: “You don’t know that. You don’t know about this stage of my recovery!”
Me: “I literally do this professionally. I am paid to know about this stage of your recovery.”
My father: “This is what you do? Really??”
(He then was able to inhale to 1000 repeatedly)
The next day, I was going to walk with my father down the hallway, and told him that he didn’t need to use the walker. He wasn’t having it…
My father: “How do you know I don’t need the walker?”
Me: “You paid a lot of money for my education to know just that. You don’t use it to walk to the bathroom, and the natural arm swing will help. I promise you’ll be fine, and you can hold my hand if you feel unsteady.”
PS – my father agreed to walk the first 50’ with the walker, and then I took it away and he did just fine.
Despite the great progress my father had, he was continuing to desaturate on room air. I monitored him while walking, tried to ween him down on the oxygen, and reported the results to the nurse (I was eager to have him discharge, so anything I could do to get him home faster!) And on the last day that my father was in the hospital, he said “I had no idea that as a physical therapist, you had to know about all of this. Why do PTs have to know about things like oxygen, and showering, and heart rate?”
I was both speechless and overwhelmed with where to start that answer all at once. My father did not know what physical therapists do. While I am an advocate for marketing our profession better, I haven’t even explained to my own family about what my degree entails, and all the avenues we can take. I have not even educated them about who I see and what I do with patients!
We should start marketing our profession to those close to us - if our friends and family do not know all of the ways physical therapy can help them, how can we get a clear message out to the community. I encourage you to ask your family members to explain what you do professionally, and what physical therapy is.