“So, why do you want to be a Physical Therapist?”
This is a question that every PT student gets asked. Whether it be at interviews for PT programs, while working with patients, or on a random dating app. This question can be answered in millions of ways, and every person has their own experiences that lead them to choosing physical therapy as their career. Here’s mine.
I wasn’t the kid who knew what I wanted to do from the age of 5. I’ve wanted to be everything from an accountant to a fashion designer. I even took actual steps in those directions, by taking multiple accounting classes in high school and designing my own prom dress. But no matter what I thought I wanted to do, I never felt fulfilled. There was always something that was missing from those “dream” jobs.
For the longest time, I couldn’t put my finger on it. What was the thing that was missing from all of these “perfect” jobs? Well, it turned out that I was missing from them. I would chase these jobs because I thought they would give me money, status, and clout. After all, I thought they would give me the popularity that every 16-year-old nerd in high school craves. But none of these jobs actually made me feel like I was making a difference in the world.
So, how did I find physical therapy? Well, it’s a pretty simple answer. When it was time to decide where I wanted to apply to college and what I wanted to do with my life, I was presented with two options – pharmacy or physical therapy. Since I had no idea what I wanted to do, I decided to shadow both a pharmacist and a physical therapist.
When I say that I was all cool and collected on the day I shadowed the physical therapist, I would be lying. I felt like my whole life was about to be determined for me, so the nerves were definitely high. However, the second I walked into the PT gym, those nerves were put to bed. I saw smiling patients and attentive physical therapists. The patients were telling tales of their lives to their therapists and the therapists were actually engaging in conversations. At the same time, the therapists were helping these patients get back aspects of their life they thought were long gone. Whether it be an 84-year-old stroke patient or the 13-year-old soccer player, each patient was being individually treated for what they wanted to get back. There was a real connection and relationship between practitioner and patient.
That was when it hit me, that is when I knew that I wanted to be a physical therapist.
Fast forward 8 years and here I am, a second-year physical therapy student that is completing her second clinical affiliation at NY Physical Therapy & Wellness in Smithtown. Regardless of the countless hours I’ve spent studying the human body and practicing special tests on my peers, it pales in comparison to the learning experience being out in the “real world” gives. I am so thankful to have been placed at NY Physical Therapy & Wellness because I feel like I’ve learned so much in just a few short weeks. Rob, Mike, Shaunté and the rest of the staff at the clinic opened their arms and welcomed me into their family. I never once felt like I was a student just passing through the doors to fulfill hours needed to graduate with a degree. Every day, I’m taught new techniques, I’m encouraged to treat patients, and challenged to think of new and fun treatments. I never feel belittled when I have a question on something that I haven’t learned. On top of that, Rob and Mike go out of their way to help me feel more comfortable with joint mobilizations and teach me techniques I haven’t even learned.
I’ve always lived by the mentality of finding something you love and making a career out of it. And while 16-year-old me had zero faith in that belief coming true, I’m happy to say that 24-year-old me has complete faith. I have faith because every day I wake up knowing that I get to see 40 of my best friends. I’ll get to hear their stories, help them through their pain, and ultimately help them feel and get better. I am so thankful that I get the opportunity to heal and help patients achieve their full potential. Being a student at NY Physical Therapy & Wellness has reaffirmed my belief that doing what you love can make a difference.
So, why do I want to be a physical therapist? Because I want to make a difference in the lives of every person I meet.
Puja Patel is a second year DPT student from Detroit, MI. She is currently a 2nd year DPT student at Touro College in Bay Shore, NY. When she isn’t studying or working in the clinic, Puja enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, and write about her journey through PT school. You can follow her on her journey to becoming a DPT on Instagram @thelifeofpuj