physical therapist

5 Ways to Expand Your Reach as a Physical Therapist: Establishing Trust Beyond the Clinic

We’ve got an important job as Physical Therapists.

We help people.

We help them get to a place of freedom – freedom from pain, discomfort, and limitations – freedom to do what they want to do at the highest level.

The task is not to be taken lightly. It’s more than a job – a mere means to a paycheck – it’s a calling.

To be worthy of a calling means we have earned our right to do what we do – and we have, no doubt. We put in our dues for 3 years of PT school, humiliated ourselves countless times in front of patients as our clinical instructors corrected our manual skills, and painstakingly earned our degrees and certifications. We deserve to be called experts in human movement.

Beyond Knowledge and Skill

But what does another 3 letters after our name mean to our patients? How many of them even know that we have our Doctorate Degree? I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t flaunt my credentials. Not because I don’t believe they have merit or deserve respect – I absolutely do! – But because the woman with 7/10 back pain for the last 6 months isn’t concerned about what the OCS on my nametag stands for – she just wants me to help her get better.

To call ourselves physical therapists and have the privilege of working in the field assumes we have the basic skills necessary to treat anyone we see or have the discernment to refer them to someone who can. Most of us are pretty good at what we do. We all have a thirst to continue to expand our toolboxes to be able to treat at the highest level possible and stay current on the latest evidence-based research. Now more than ever there is a long list of resources at our disposal of top-notch courses led by world-class PTs. It is imperative that we utilize these resources and continue to hone our skills while broadening our knowledge in order to treat optimally.

That said, I think we have been called to even greater things.

Let me explain…

In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin states, “We spend our time and energy trying to perfect our craft, but we don’t focus on the skills and interactions that will allow us to stand out and become indispensable…”

Where does our knowledge and skills go beyond the treatment room? There is a deep satisfaction in helping people in the clinic – yes – but what about everyone else? What about the people that don’t come in to see us?

How many people do you know in your personal life that have no idea – or a skewed idea – of what a physical therapist actually does?

How many of those people would benefit from your services?

Taking it one step further…couldn’t everyone benefit from your services in some way?

If you meet someone at a dinner party and she asks what you do, you should be able tell her what you can do to help her – whether she has pain or not. When did it become unpopular to genuinely offer people help without the expectation of reciprocity?

People need us. This is what we do.

We help people – the weekend warriors, the new moms, the elderly struggling with balance and weakness, the aspiring athletes, and the sedentary office workers.

How many of these people struggle in silence? How many actually believe they can be helped? How many would trust that you could be the one to help?

Beyond Your Job Description

Perhaps we, as a profession, need to re-examine our calling and assume a new collective role – the role of the trusted guide, the expert in pain and injury prevention, exercise, movement, and sports performance. People already have their minds made up about who they trust as “experts” in these areas, and in many cases they have been misinformed.

We are doing the general public a disservice by not introducing them to our expertise. Instead, they turn to coaches, personal trainers, chiropractors, acupuncture, massage, friends, or the internet for help.

If only people could understand how you can serve them… If only they knew all that you had to offer… Then…fill in the blank. The possibilities are endless.

How can you change their perception?

Here’s how…

You must reach out to them first. By ‘first’ I mean before they go looking for help. We must introduce people to us in a new light that exposes our expertise.

How?

Beyond The Walls of the Treatment Room: 5 Action Steps to Reach People in the Greater Community

  1. Write an article for a newspaper, a magazine, a website or LinkedIn: somewhere people are gathering, thirsty for information. Be the one to give them the best information possible. This isn’t hard to do. Make a list of 10 possible sources you could write for. Research the editor of each source and get a contact email. Explain what you can offer and see if they respond. With 10 tries, you’re bound to get one “yes”.   The other 9 are good practice.

LinkedIn has its own publishing platform. Write your article and submit it to hundreds, potentially thousands of people in different groups you want to target. Make the article appealing – use photos, break it into small, digestible paragraphs of 1-3 sentences. Make it at least 500 words. This shouldn’t take you more than an hour.

  1. Start a website/blog: you can do this for free at wordpress.org. Just start writing. Pick topics you think would be helpful for people. I started a website a month ago at the time of this writing and have had over 1500 visitors read what I’ve written. That’s fifteen hundred people that wouldn’t have otherwise heard what I have to say. Get your words out there!
  2. Write a Book: This may sound overwhelming, but a book can reach people like nothing else can. Getting published is one thing, but it’s now easier than ever to self-publish a book directly to Amazon. If this is a bit too much of a stretch for you, start smaller. Try writing a 5,000-10,000 word eBook in PDF format. You can easily and relatively cheaply hire a designer to make it look appealing on websites like Fiverr.com. I wrote my eBook on posture and am giving it away for free. Check it out here.
  3. Speak at a local library: rent a conference room and a projector from the library. This should cost less than $100 to do. The library will likely advertise for you on their event website, but you can also spread the word yourself through local and social media. Put together a Powerpoint presentation, practice speaking to a friend, then go for it. Oftentimes the library will allow you to charge a fee for attendance, or you can do it for free.
  4. Educate with videos: with technology today, this couldn’t be any easier. You’ve got a phone. Record yourself teaching an exercise or teaching about a topic. Post it to Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram. Create a Youtube channel so people can follow you. Again, just start, you’ll be amazed at what happens.

“But I’m not technical. I’m not good at writing. I’m not a public speaker.” – I can hear the excuses now.

Guess what, I listened to a bunch of podcasts and read a bunch of blog posts about how to set up a website and I did it in a couple months. I went to the public library and asked to speak to someone about renting a conference room. I practiced my public speaking by teaching a group class at my clinic. I started a Youtube channel. I asked to write for this website.

Am I good at any of these things? I’m getting better as I do them and I’m learning as I go. The bottom line is – I started. I’m reaching people – important information is reaching people. And the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

To Infinity…?

I say these things to encourage you and to invite you to do the same. Alone, I can only reach so many people. If you aren’t ready or willing to create content yourself, then share the content that others have created. A simple ‘Share’ on Facebook expands the reach of an article to your friends and family. A ‘Like’ on Youtube or Instagram generates potentially hundreds of more viewers.

Our calling as physical therapists goes far beyond the walls of the treatment room. We have the tools and skills to help thousands of more people, in small and potentially big ways.

You must be willing to take small steps outside your comfort zone and take action.

Join me.

Question: What 1 action step can you take this week to expand your reach as a PT outside the clinic? – comment below

About Michael Curtis PT DPT OCS

Michael Curtis PT DPT OCS
Dr. Michael Curtis is a Board Certified Orthopaedic Clinical Specialist who graduated from Azusa Pacific University in 2012. He then completed his Orthopaedic Residency the following year through Kaiser Permanente. He operates a website and free resource for the public to access expert advice on preventing pain and injury, improving function and fitness. Michael recently wrote an eBook entitled 'Why You Have Bad Posture and How To Make It Better.' For a free copy visit MichaelCurtisPT.com

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