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3 Reasons to Pursue Teaching as a Physical Therapist

As a PT student, I never thought that I’d be interested in teaching. I remember having academia as an after-thought months prior to my graduation. However, things change and such is life. One week prior to commencement, I was approached by the chairperson of my school’s DPT program. She asked if I would be interested in co-teaching a palpation lab for the incoming freshmen of the program. I thought it over and we came to an agreement that I would begin immediately following the NPTE. Little did I know that this single experience would spark an unforeseen interest in teaching as a physical therapist. The experience exposed me to the fulfillment of passing on my knowledge. It also benefitted me professionally. Here are 3 benefits of exploring opportunities teaching as a physical therapist.

“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.” -Albert Einstein

Image courtesy of Jomphong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Jomphong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Constant Review

Teaching as a novice physical therapist requires you to maintain the student mindset; you must review, review, and review more. Your own success, and that of your students, is contingent upon your knowledge of the given topic. As a new full-time practitioner, it’s worthwhile to periodically review material, since the transition from student to professional is often big leap. As a professional therapist, you will be reviewing topics from a new perspective, and with a new appreciation. As a clinician expands his/her clinical expertise, there is a growing body of lecture material available captivate the learner. Moreover, it allows you to solidify knowledge of a multitude of topics, including those that may not have been your strengths during PT school. Teaching affords continued practice, and we all know that practice makes perfect!

“Don’t practice until you get it right; practice until you can’t get it wrong.”

Physical Therapists = Educators

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pedagogy doesn’t solely refer to employees of the Department of Education. All physical therapists are teachers in their own right. We are educators. We are educators of pathology, postural alignment, movement quality and how all of those things relate to overall health. We are educators of corrective exercises, corrective posture, and corrective lifestyle changes for convalescence. We are constantly instructing patients, support personnel, and sometimes even colleagues. The pedagogical seed is embedded within us already. The next progression would be to nurture and develop it.

Uplifting The Art of Physical Therapy

This is the most important benefit for me. Teaching is my way of giving back to the field. Sharing treatment tools, innovative techniques, and research buzz all help to uplift our profession. Students revere you, colleagues acknowledge you, and patients admire you. As a proud PT and APTA member, I continuously try my hardest to magnify the field whenever I’m engaged in dialogue, written or verbal. Considering the various restorative methods that physical therapy can provide to patients, I make sincere efforts to help raise the level of awareness of the health community at large. Physical therapy practice has progressed throughout the recent years and continues to grow every day. To continue this marvelous growth and exceed all expectations, we must undoubtedly prioritize personal growth. Growth occurs rapidly with an incessant desire to learn. By learning, one can teach; more importantly, by teaching one can learn.

Create Your Opportunities

As a recent grad, opportunities for teaching as a physical therapist were not exactly abundant. After my first exposure as a TA in the palpation lab, I tried vehemently to land an adjunct teaching position. I strategically sought teaching opportunities at my alma mater, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, to work toward my goal, but for awhile, that seemed ineffective. I sent emails, met with faculty, and volunteered continuously in classes. Nonetheless, after 1 year of full-time employment as a PT, and simultaneous full-time persistence as an eager “wannabe teacher”, I was finally granted another opportunity to step back into the classroom. Never undervalue the power of persistence.

I have been granted the pleasure of hosting lectures and labs in different orthopedic courses and, as of September 2015, I became a clinical instructor. I urge you to develop an insatiable hunger for advancement.

Teaching has been very influential in my development as a therapist and a professional thus far. It keeps me on point, and is now part of my identity. In addition, teaching has given me the opportunity to develop relationships and connections with numerous therapists that have provided mentorship and guidance. I don’t anticipate a full-time career as a faculty member at this point of my career but I look forward to the day that the opportunity arises to teach as a physical therapist . I wholeheartedly recommend new PTs to capitalize on any and all potential teaching ventures to help hone skills and bring further fulfillment to their careers.

About Clifford Civil

Clifford Civil
Clifford Civil is a native of Brooklyn, New York. Growing up in a diverse community with profound family values, he has been instilled with the tools required to practice humane deeds. Throughout his life, Clifford has always been fascinated with exercise and fitness as an avid athlete; moreover, he always loved learning about human anatomy and its functional integration. In order to unite his passions, he sought out a professional career that would allow him to thrive by providing altruistic care to help patients with diverse pathologies. Clifford spent his college years in Atlanta, Georgia where he graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Physiology with Magna Cum Laude distinction (May 2010). While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Clifford obtained his American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Health Fitness Specialist certification in January 2010 to allow him to embark on a journey of helping the public increase awareness and develop action towards living happier, healthier, and less problematic lives. To solidify his expertise, Clifford earned his Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree from the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY (May 2013). Throughout physical therapy school, Clifford participated in numerous non-profit community ventures, which helped win several awards including the “NYPTA Minority Student Future Leadership Award,” also in May 2013. Since graduating, Clifford has been practicing full-time in an orthopedic outpatient private practice, part-time in patient’s homes, and operating as an adjunct professor at his alma mater, SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Clifford’s treatment approach is highly centered around physical movement incorporating manual therapy, neuromuscular re-education, and active therapeutic exercise into his plan of care. Outside from his roles as a physical therapist, Clifford maintains an active healthy lifestyle, and is a community activist who volunteers at numerous events throughout New York City. Clifford maintains his professional website, www.cliffordcivil.xyz, where he displays all his passion via pictures, articles, and videos for the viewing pleasure of the public.

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