This week I had the privilege of giving a Roll Models talk to the University of Kansas Pre-Physical Therapy Club. I had contacted them last Spring about the possibility of coming out to speak, but their schedule for speakers was already full for the semester. However, they were very interested in having a Roll Models talk, and they said they would touch base with me early this Fall to set something up. Not only did they actually follow up with me, but they invited me to speak at their first meeting of the year. I felt honored that they wanted me to kick off their club’s activities for the year, and I was also excited to get a chance to give back to my alma mater (Rock Chalk!). After exchanging emails with the club president and getting a good idea of what their club hopes to accomplish, I began putting together a brand new, Roll Models talk that would be a good fit for this audience. This talk eventually was entitled “Tough Love.”
In “Tough Love” I share some of my experiences with physical therapists throughout my life. My primary goal in this talk was to show them how physical therapy has changed my life in ways that go far beyond things like range of motion and muscle tone. While these physiological aspects of therapy are important, it is the long-term effects that these things have on the lives of their patients that are the real goal. For example, helping a mother rehab from an injury and getting her to the point that she can lift 30 pounds off the ground is great, but giving her back the ability to pick up her toddler to comfort him when he is scared is what she will remember forever. It is these types of things that you have to keep in mind in order to be a great physical therapist and make profound changes in the lives of your patients. Additionally, I wanted to share with them the one lesson that I wish all of my therapists over the years would have known. This incredibly important, but often overlooked, skill is remembering to listen to your patients. Even though the physical therapist is the expert on the human body and physiology, it is critical to keep in mind that the patient is the expert on their body. What works for one patient may not work for another. It is important to be open to the suggestions of your patients and make your session a team effort.
I am excited to say that the time and effort I put into crafting this talk was well spent. The students were very attentive throughout my entire time on stage, and they had a great energy. They laughed, they cried (well maybe not cried, but misty-eyed for sure), and they clapped when I was done, so I consider it a success. They also asked good questions afterwards that showed me that they not only had paid attention and enjoyed my talk, but that they had taken the time to really think about my message. It felt great to be able to pass on my knowledge and experiences with the next generation of physical therapists, who will without a doubt make an enormous impact on the lives of their patients. This is why I do what I do through Roll Models, to improve lives in any way I can. It was a true privilege to get this opportunity, and I hope that my words will be something they remember down the road as they complete their physical therapy program and start working with patients.
In addition to the wonderful feeling I got from this amazing audience, I also got the chance to reminisce about my days as a graduate student at KU. I did not realize this until I arrived at the building in which I was speaking, but the venue was located across the street from the first apartment I lived in when my brother and I moved to Lawrence five years ago. It felt like decades ago that I had lived there, but I was so happy to find that the memories I have of my time in the Jayhawk Towers Apartments were positive, happy times. I thought about meeting my nurses and signing up with CareStaf, the times my brother and I would go downtown to window shop and eat at new restaurants, and the great people I met who became close friends. It was fun to get nostalgic and think about my past, and it made me feel even more proud to be able to give back to this university that gave me so many good memories.
I hope that the students who heard me speak got as much out of this experience as I did. If “Tough Love” makes a difference with even one of them in the future with their patients, I will consider this Roll Models talk a huge success. I also feel so fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to look back on where I have been, and how my year living on campus shaped my life. It is important and insightful to remember the people, places, and things that have molded your life, so that you can appropriately value and appreciate the guides you have had on your journey. By remembering how much your guides have affected you, it also allows you to repay some of the help and support they have shown you. Bringing things full circle in this way will create a powerful feeling of happiness in the lives of both you and your guides.