October is National Physical Therapy Month

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Special thanks to faculty member Jennafer Vande Vegte, MSPT, BCB-PMD, PRPC for writing this article. Jen began her career as a physical therapist at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, MI she has focused her professional attention on treating women, men, and children with pelvic health disorders since 2002. She has been faculty for Herman & Wallace since 2009 and loves to inspire other rehab professionals treating pelvic floor dysfunction. She is an author of the chapter, “Manual Therapy for the Pelvic Floor” which was published in the book, “Healing in Urology.” 


To the physical therapists,

Do you remember what drew you to be a physical therapist?

Maybe it was a personal experience you had as a patient needing rehab after an injury?
Maybe, like me, you knew you wanted to go into medicine but the idea of being a doctor or a nurse didn’t quite fit?
Maybe you saw the power of physical medicine through a family member?

We all took different paths but ended up in the same place…a grueling college or university program where we challenged and pushed ourselves through semesters of anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry and physics before we even got to curriculum that focused on all we would need to be excellent rehabilitation medicine providers.  Then, said educational institutions deemed us WORTHY to go to hospitals and clinics to practice our new found skills, not just on each other, but on real people!  How much did we get paid to perform these services?  OHH nooo we didn’t get paid, in fact we had to PAY the university for this work expertise.  We had clinical instructors who took the baton from our professors and refined our skills while helping us put our knowledge into practice.

But it all was worth it as we went out into the world and began our careers.

Some of us landed in our specialty of pelvic health right away.  Some of us bounced around a bit before finding our pelvic passion! Some of us (me!) went kicking and screaming into our first pelvic rehab class, never expecting to fall in love.  Regardless of our path, we all ended up here, in this diverse, unique, passionate and somewhat quirky family of pelvic health specialists!

Do you remember the first time you really made a difference for someone?  The look in their eyes when they told you with complete and utter sincerity how much your care impacted their life?  The words in the card and the feeling you had reading them?  The flowers that were delivered?  The taste of the homemade cookies someone made, just for you, just to say, Thank You?!  Close your eyes right now, just for a bit, and reflect on the gratitude YOU have that the work you do has value and meaning.  I think any and all rehab specialists have a treasured collection of these moments…but for us, the ability to hold space for healing in such a private, personal and sacred part of the body is incredibly powerful and unique.

Ahh, but there is also a flip side of this coin.  The times when we are up at night thinking about that one person that presents a challenge to our skill set, clinical or interpersonal.  The patients, families or situations that make us cry.  The stories we wish we didn’t hear.  The secondary trauma we face, that we didn’t realize we were signing up for and maybe weren’t equipped to handle.

As pelvic health physical therapists, we experience both sides of our profession.  The joy and the pain, at times, in equal measure.

We put in long hours, work overtime, manage mounds of paperwork and emails.  We are clinical staff, senior therapists, managers and supervisors.  We are clinical instructors, college and university professors, researchers and political advocates.  We work in hospitals, clinics, private practices, homes, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, schools, for sports teams, for dance troupes, for circus performers and more.  We specialize in pelvic health, but maybe we also have backgrounds or specialties in orthopedics, geriatrics, pediatrics, neurology, cardiopulmonary, pelvic health, inpatient care, sports rehab, cancer care, vestibular, aquatics, lymphedema, manual therapy, work hardening/conditioning and even more!

We interview, evaluate, assess, plan, execute, refine, redirect, prescribe, coach, motivate, understand, listen, cry and laugh.  We use our brains, our hands, our bodies and especially… our hearts.

We are pelvic health physical therapists.

And this month we celebrate not just what we DO, but who we ARE.

Happy PT month!

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