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first PT job

Transitioning from School to your First Job

Starting your first job as a PT or PTA can be very overwhelming, but it can also be even more exciting! Questions like what should you expect to do when starting your first job or how can you make a good first impression may cross your mind. Don’t worry, you have trained and been educated in your craft and now you’re ready to hit the ground running.

The most important thing to remember is BE PATIENT
It takes time, even years in some cases, to feel comfortable performing all of the tasks and responsibilities that come with being a PT or PTA.

You’re a clinician now! You are responsible for the care and progress of every patient you treat, but you must realize that you are not expected to know it all. In fact, trying too hard to impress your superiors and co-workers by doing too much could get you into a pickle.

Ask questions

If this is your first job, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” or ask “what would you do in this situation?”. In healthcare professions you deal with people, specifically their health and lifestyle. For this reason you need to leave your pride at the door. Patients come to you as the professional, and at this point you have a good idea of what you’re talking about. However, I’ve experienced first hand how embarrassing it can be to have a patient recognize that I don’t know what I’m talking about while I pretend that I have the answer. Thoroughly confused yet? Stay with me!

Bottom line is your co-workers will trust you more with seeing patients and taking on a full case load if you are using every resource available, which includes asking questions, to deliver quality care to your patients.

Don’t be Superman (or Wonder Woman)

What I mean by this is simply don’t expect to be able to soak everything in that day.

Pick 2-3 main points that you want to get comfortable with and work on that for a week or more.
These can be things like learning how they document with their documentation programs (sometimes this takes some getting use to and sometimes you catch on fast), getting acquainted with staff and patients, learning how things are organized and where equipment is stored. At first you may feel more like an aide than a newly graduated professional, but everyone has to master the basic before they can run smoothly. Something that has been a huge help for me in my career so far is picking someone who you could call your mentor. It has helped me a lot when I have located someone that I work with who’s style and work ethic matches what I want to emulate as a professional in the future. Use them as a primary source of information for all of your questions. Taking advantage of this has helped me realize what I have to do to get to where I want to be, and more importantly what skills I need to work on before I can progress further.

These are a few ideas that I hope will help. However, there is much more out there that can be discussed, so don’t be afraid to ask us questions. We can help make the transition to your first job a little easier!

Good luck!

About Collin Liston

I currently live in Logan Utah. I've been practicing as a physical therapist assistant for almost 4 years now. I am currently working on a bachelor's degree which will be done in February and then I will be working on getting into PT school. I love to mountain bike, I love spending time with my two boys Jayden and Jax, and anything related to physical fitness.

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