PT school and family

How to Manage Family Time with Physical Therapy School

Several years back, I eavesdropped on a handful of co-workers discussing how they ended up in their long term, mid-level positions. Responses were a chorus of disheartening deviations, dreams never to be. All had bigger aspirations and passions, but, as we all know, life doesn’t stop or slow down for any of us. Having a family or starting a family sometimes curbs our personal objectives. Attending physical therapy school while raising or starting a family is a reality many of us face.

This situation adds complexity to the dynamic of PT school, but with that complexity comes unique rewards. There are going to be differences in lifestyles between classmates who are providing for families, and those who are not. Managing and understanding how things will differ is the key. Priorities, perspective, and limitations become the parameters for navigating the endeavor.

Physical therapy school and family trade off

In a world of singular responsibility to self, establishing priorities is a simple process. A need versus want criteria is used and then tasks get ranked accordingly. “Family always comes first” is a cliché we all hear and use, but you fully understand when you are at the hierarchical end of one.

Physical therapy school is similar to having a full-time job, in terms of responsibilities and professionalism but has the added component of rarely being “off the clock”.
Prioritizing time for your family, your school, and your self becomes vital when the time for each is compressed. Running a marathon every six months may be unrealistic and you may find yourself running once a year instead. This doesn’t mean you have to quit running, but you need to adjust your order of priorities. In a way, this is a positive, as it allows you to reflect on what you are passionate about versus what truly is a side interest. When you are raising a family during physical therapy school, you are forced to devote your time and energy into more concentrated areas.

Find your opportunities

The realization and acceptance of our limitations can be a bitter pill to swallow. Aspiring health care providers tend to have a high degree of motivation and ambition. With shrinkage of time, the ability to attain the familiar high standards to which we hold ourselves is diminished. The ability to put in countless hours on meaningless tasks may not be possible anymore.

Remember that hours allocated for school and studying equates to missed time seeing your child develop or bonding with your spouse
Those amazing clinical opportunities all across the country may not be a possibility. Consider the energy and logistical demands of moving several people across the country in a limited time for a limited stay to potentially do it all over again in 3-4 months. That local clinical rotation will likely give you everything you need to continue developing. Limitations are not a negative component, just something to make peace with.

What all PT students have in common

Family or no family, late nights and early mornings are a reality for us all; exactly how early and or how late may be the key difference. Your perspective will continue to adapt as you forge on with your education. Believe in the process, be open to the changes taking place, and don’t be afraid to adjust and find new methods. Managing life provides a tremendous opportunity to figure out what works. Reality is the majority of us will have to work and manage a family life some day. Re-adjust your perspective.

We must not forget that having loved ones to come home to is a privilege and a joy. Going to school and studying our passion is a privilege and a joy. We are the lucky ones.

About Colin Wiest

Colin Wiest
SPT Duke School of Medicine, MBA. Previous U.S. military service member (USMC 2006-2010, ARNG 2010-2011).

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