Janet Drake Whalen, PT, DPT sat down with The Pelvic Rehab Report this week to discuss herself and how she came to TA for Herman & Wallace. Janet is scheduled to TA next at the Doylestown PA for Pelvic Floor Level 1 scheduled January 7-8 2023.
Hi Janet, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your clinical practice?
I am a physical therapist with 36 years of experience who has spent 34 years of my career in women’s health physical therapy. Over my career, I have been an advocate and continue to promote abdominal and pelvic health for all. My career led me to become a Lamaze-educated childbirth educator, certified neuroscience practitioner, women’s health coach, and professional yoga therapist. My clinical practice now is in a hospital setting where I am educating outpatient therapy staff, healthcare providers, and physicians on pelvic health. I am heading the start of a 4th-trimester program and a sexual health program.
What has your educational journey as a pelvic rehab therapist looked like, and how did you get involved in the pelvic rehabilitation field?
My educational journey started after an unplanned cesarean birth of my first son 34 years ago. In 1988 resources for women after delivery was scarce. I started looking into education and found a course taught by a nurse, Jo Laycock, from England. I attended her course sitting with nurses to learn about incontinence. My first women's health physical therapy courses were through the OB/GYN section of the APTA taught by Elizabeth Noble, Holly Herman, Kathy Wallace, Jill Boissonnault, and Marla Bookout. When Holly Herman and Kathy Wallace started their own education company, I started to attend courses through Herman & Wallace. After my vaginal birth after the Cesarean of my second son in 1990, I studied and earned my Lamaze International Childbirth Educator certification. I taught Lamaze for 9 years and continue with my certification. I started as a teaching assistant with Herman & Wallace approximately 15 years ago.
What patient population do you find most rewarding in treating and why?
This is a difficult question for me, although I would have to say that pregnancy and postpartum was my initial passion. Sexual health and whole-body wellness have been my passion for the past 12 years. I enjoy the interdisciplinary approach to sexual dysfunctions and continuing to learn more every year from patients and fellow clinicians.
If you could get a message out to physical therapists about pelvic rehab what would it be?
Every patient has a pelvis with organs and muscles. If you are treating spine and hip patients, you are affecting the pelvic floor muscles and the pelvic floor muscles are affecting your patients’ symptoms. External treatment can be as effective as internal treatment - so take a pelvic health course, you and your patients will benefit!
What lesson have you learned in a course, from an instructor, or from a colleague or mentor that has stayed with you?
I've had so many amazing instructors and colleagues over the years. From my therapeutic pain specialty certification to Louis Gifford’s work on what patients really what to know: 4 questions...
Also, listen to your patient's story. Meet your patients where they are and ask them open-ended questions.
What do you find is the most useful resource for your practice?
Besides a hi-low table, my ears and my heart.
What is in store for you in the future as a clinician?
To educate as many clinicians and therapists as possible to be ready to hand over the baton in five to seven years. A successful 4th-trimester program and sexual health program at the hospital I am currently employed.
What books or articles have impacted you as a clinician?
This is another tough question for me I have a library of books. But I will say that a textbook that I always have on hand is Anatomy Trains by Tom Myers. Research articles that provide a consensus of terminology and classifications with algorithms that are great to discuss with other clinicians.
What has been your favorite Herman & Wallace Course and why?
Pelvic Floor 3 (now Pelvic Floor Capstone) with Holly Herman piqued my interest in sexual health. Since that time all the visceral and myofascial courses with Ramona Horton have shaped and deepened my practice.
What lesson have you learned from a Herman & Wallace instructor that has stayed with you?
One lesson that has stayed from Nari Clemens is how important it is to take care of yourself. Another from Ramona Horton regarding hands-on treatment is that you are having a conversation with the brain/nervous system.
What do you love about assisting at courses?
What I love about assisting at courses is meeting all the physical therapists from different stages of their careers with an interest in pelvic health. Their energy excites me and reminds me how wonderful our profession is.
What is your message to course participants who are just starting their journey?
If you're just starting your journey, hold on! There is a lot to learn, to practice, to share, and to educate others. You are going to influence so many people’s lives.