Let’s Get Physical

My heels are swollen, my lower back doesn’t quite extend like it used to, and I constantly smell like a combination of hand sanitizer and latex.

I love my new job.

I am now entering my third month as a mobility specialist on the Up and Movin’ team at Deaconess Hospital here in Indiana. I spent my first month in orientation- basically, following around a veteran of the job and asking questions faster than they could answer them. I have some rough days and even rougher patients (more on that below), but this job has been a true blessing during a time when I’ve needed both something to fill my time and a way to make money for a Europe trip my siblings and I are planning for next summer.

As a mobility specialist, I am a mix between a physical therapist and a patient care tech. I receive orders from nurses, doctors, and therapists (PTs and OTs) to walk with patients, engage them in exercises, go over deep breathing techniques, or some combination of the three. This is the perfect segue into a career as a physical therapist, and it has helped me to get out some of the anxiety that comes with introducing myself to patients, communicating with fellow health professionals, writing progress notes, and physically manipulating patients’ bodies to get in a good stretch. I also believe that I have a much better idea of what goes into inpatient therapy, although I, of course, cannot know everything; I am still a good 3 and a half years from my goal as a therapist.

My favorite part of the workday is going into the office and checking out what’s called our “Up and Movin’ board.” The board has the names of all of the mobility specialists working that day, as well as all of the patients that each person is responsible for treating. It’s a very stressful, and yet amazing feeling, knowing that you have your own caseload and are actually providing healthcare. This is still all a bit surreal for me, and I continue to question why anyone in their right mind would let me near a patient let alone touch one. Now that I’m starting to get used to protocol, codes for various doors in the hospital, and have learned some doctor/RN/PCT names, work is going smoother. Unfortunately, this also makes the day more redundant. However, since I get to meet new patients every day, and have learned what it is that I can talk about with recurring patients, my day is pretty rewarding in the end.

I won’t characterize this as a mistake, but the biggest naivety that I expressed when I started out at Up and Movin’ was that every patient encounter would be a treat. I was tempted to complain here about specific things that patients had said or done, but… The thing is, no matter how cruel or hostile a patient becomes, I try not to hold it against them. Granted, I have teared up at work twice, both in the past week and a half. But hospitals, while magical places of healing and compassion, are not where most patients want to be. Detached medical professionals are real. Misdiagnoses are real. Unpleasant medicinal side effects are real. Depression is real. So, while I believe that every person has the responsibility to treat another with respect and an open mind, I try not to take it personally if a patient is less than kind in response to my efforts to offer help, and possibly subsequent pain relief. They could have a million things going on in their life that I know nothing about. Or, they’re just looking to give me a hard time. As my coworker puts it, “You’ve got to have rhino skin to work around here.”

As I spend more time at the hospital, I’m most looking forward to better understanding comorbidities- physical and mental ailments that accompany the issue for which the patient requires therapy or Up and Movin’. In an inpatient setting such as at Deaconess, it is never the case that a person only has left shoulder pain or only bilateral lower extremity weakness. There are always bigger issues at play (heart attacks, diabetes, arthritis), and while I have specific, exercise-based orders, I feel more confident in my work if I can take a holistic approach.

I’m excited to keep everyone updated as I delve deeper into my job and to share all that I am bound to learn! 

One thought on “Let’s Get Physical

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