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Why did I choose to go into physical therapy?

I come from a long history of medical professionals. My maternal great-great grandfather, William P. Gibbons, was a founder of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. My maternal great uncle was a prominent San Francisco physician, while my maternal grandfather was a civil engineer on the Hoover Dam. My mother always wanted to be in the medical field but was steered in the direction of a homemaker. She passed on the "medical bug" to me.

In high school, my mother encouraged me to volunteer for Marin General Hospital as a "Pink Lady". That sounds so funny now. My sister and brother were also encouraged to do the same. I started volunteering there as a freshman in high school and loved the environment - people in a health crisis appreciated someone coming into their rooms with a smile, fresh water, delivering their flowers, their Sunday papers, and their meal menus. I enjoyed talking with the patients, and I absolutely loved eaves dropping on the nurses and doctors. This was the 1980's and well before computers and HIPPA laws.

My senior year in high school brought a need for a volunteer in the physical therapy department. I had never heard of physical therapy, but I was interested in learning a new aspect of the various medical fields. I immediately fell in love with the PT and the assistants. While I stocked the linen cabinets, filled the ultrasound gel bottles, helped transport some of the patients to and from their hospital rooms, I listened and watched. The environment was positive, happy, hopeful, and fun! But the real push for me to major in physical therapy was the Roses, Mr. and Mrs. Rose. He had developed type 2 diabetes and lost a leg to the disease. He came for outpatient physical therapy to teach him to walk with his new prosthetic leg. He walked in the parallel bars, while Mrs. Rose chided him on, encouraging him with loving jokes that sounded harsh, but had Mr. Rose hollaring back at how she was distracting him from learning to walk again. The love, the joy, the fun those two were having was all it took. I was going to go into physical therapy school.

I remember a physician asked me why I decided to go to physical therapy school and not medical school. I thought about that for a long moment before answering. In the late 1980's and early 1990's, women physicians were working full-time (and longer at their jobs). I wanted a family. To do that, I needed the flexibility of working part time without the medical school loans looming over my head and without the long hours away from my kids. I also wanted to build a relationship with my clients, and not just see them once a year for 15- 20 minutes. I thought, "How can someone really know what is going on with someone else during a 15-20 minute encounter?". I wanted more. As I relayed this to the physician, he looked at me, paused, and said, "You are right and I wished I had thought that through before going to medical school". I remember the warmth in my heart and soul and knew I made the right decision.

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