Tag Archives: Physical Therapy

Serving Others

Our service group for the week...Alex, Tim, myself, and Autumn!  Photo credit: one of our amazing ISL staff members

Our service group for the week…Alex, Tim, myself, and Autumn! Photo credit: one of our amazing ISL staff members

It has been nearly six months since Tim and I (and a fellow colleague and new found friend) returned from our physical therapy service trip to Costa Rica.  It has taken me a while to truly process my experience while serving in such a beautiful country.  This process was certainly derailed by my reading of the book, Doing Good Is Simple by Chris Marlow (founder of Help One Now) shortly after returning home.  A book I highly recommend if you’re looking for ways to serve others!  And one that I wish I had read prior to my trip not after…

A simple side and look into service work.  Photo credit: myself

A simple side and look into service work. Photo credit: myself

Prior to leaving (with a vague itinerary), I felt ready for whatever situation we may be placed in while serving there…I was so wrong!  I was guilty of thinking I had the perspective I needed for this trip.  Reading articles, watching videos, talking with others, etc did nothing to prepare me for the emotions that would hit me hard throughout our service project.

Photo credit: Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

Myself and a colleague had the bittersweet pleasure of getting to work at a place called Manos Abiertas.  What a special place this is, and one that will forever be etched on my heart!  This place is so full of life, even amidst an undertow of suffering.  The many stories of suffering were overshadowed by the amazing staff and volunteers, who are caring for some of the most vulnerable children and adults in Costa Rica.  At times, the joy on the residents’ and staffs’ faces were almost palpable, which was inspiring after hearing about the many struggles they endured.  This is the kind of place that can be hard on the heart, but so worth taking your heart to.  A place I truly hope to return to someday!

A place that helped shape my heart.  Photo credit: Manos Abiertas website

A place that helped shape my heart. Photo credit: Manos Abiertas website

Autumn and I with the best translators and ISL staff...Pouchi and Lau

Autumn and I with the best translators and ISL staff…Pouchi and Lau

Autumn and I with the amazing physical therapists at Manos Abiertas...Javier, Gustavo, and Esteban

Autumn and I with the amazing physical therapists at Manos Abiertas…Javier, Gustavo, and Esteban

My trip reflection
It may seem cliche, but hindsight truly is 20/20, especially after a trip like this.  My pre-trip, somewhat naive self learned so much more than bargained for throughout the many eye-opening and heartfelt experiences.  Following this retrospection I’ve discovered three repeating thoughts that will hopefully result in a greater impact during my future adventures, here in the States and abroad.

The first, WHO is the trip impacting?
Prior to the trip, I was looking forward to how I would be able to impact the people I came in contact with during my time there.  However, by the end, I was realizing just how much of an influence they were having on me.  Looking back, the ebb and flow of the relationships I made were very much one of mutual give and take.  And being more aware of this kind of connection and realizing how important this two-sided relationship benefits both, will only add to my future mission experiences.

Photo credit: Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

The second is, HOW are you impacting the people and the community?
Pondering the ways in which your time and effort will impact the people you are there to serve is something I considered, but didn’t intentionally think about until I was in Costa Rica.  Since I had never traveled outside the US for something like this before, I really had no idea what to expect.  Finding ways to make your service impact more than just the people you directly work with is important.  Encouraging those you connected with to then go out into their community and inspire others is where success is found.

This is what I want to encourage in those I cross paths with.  Photo credit: Pinterest

This is what I want to encourage in those I cross paths with. Photo credit: Pinterest

And lastly, WHAT impact are you leaving behind?
This to me, is by far the most important thing to consider before signing up for a service or mission trip.  Knowing how the organization maintains relationships (long after you’ve come and gone) in the community you’re serving is crucial to the long term benefits of the people living there.  This is one thing I had never really considered until reading countless articles on the ways short-term mission trips and pop-up mission organizations can sometimes be a detriment to the communities visited and how much more an area can flourish with lasting support.  Which is why finding a company that had an established presence in the community was crucial for me.

Photo credit: Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

I encourage you to take a trip and experience different cultures, hear other languages, and learn about the ways of life outside the safety of your community, it may just be the best thing you could do…at least it has been for me!

Love God, Love People, Serve Others ❤️

Opinions from a traveling therapist

Disclaimer: These are just my opinions through work experience and observation, so take from it what you want.  You will find no evidenced-based, double blind, randomized controlled research here, be thankful for that!

PT symbol
     Many of you know that I work as a travel physical therapist (PT), which is turning out to be a lucrative career choice for supporting our wanderlust lifestyle.  Before hitting the road, I worked at an outpatient clinic for a great therapist-owned company in Indiana for over five years (shout out to Indiana Physical Therapy).  I was also working prn at a close to home skilled nursing facility (the best I’ve worked in to date). But I started to have the desire to do something different, which happened to be; sell everything, buy an RV, and take 13-week contracts in various parts of the country in order to fund this nomadic adventure.  So far it’s been incredible!  This type of change is quite drastic and not for everyone.  However, I’m sure many of you have felt some sort of complacency in your life or career, and I was nearing that point (insert: current crazy nomad life)
Photo credit: Steph at Lemolo Falls in Oregon

Photo credit: Steph at Lemolo Falls in Oregon

     Since hitting the road, I’ve worked in Bay City, Texas at a skilled nursing facility; Sulphur Springs, Texas at an outpatient clinic; Fort Bragg, California at a skilled nursing facility; and Roseburg, Oregon at the VA hospital in outpatient with a handful of inpatient.  This variety has allowed me to see just how different healthcare can be, based on the type of setting and the sector.
 Travel by State
     There are some big differences I’ve noted between the private sector and the government sector (limited experience/observation in one particular VA region), each with their own advantages and disadvantages.  Although the majority of my career has been spent in the private sector, I am starting to get a feel for a government run “business”, if you want to call it that.  The private sector as a, “for-profit model” and the government sector as a, “mis-used tax dollars with good intentions model”.  (Unfortunately, some politicians claim that “some things are too big to fail”, they clearly have lost sight of the definition of fail and haven’t spent much time at the VA speaking with veterans)
     When I first started in August, between two nearby VA facilities (70 miles apart), there were over 300 PT consults not yet scheduled.  I was evaluating patients that had PT orders placed in April and May, which seems completely unacceptable.  What was an acute condition for a patient, has now transitioned to a chronic one, all because of lack of access to care.   You rarely, if ever, see these kinds of wait times in the PT private sector (from my experience).   And much of this lack of access to care has to do with all of the “unnecessary” government red tape and “VA clinical pathway policies”.  Many non-productive employees (which is way to many for any kind of efficiency to follow), having meetings about the meetings, driving up overhead costs, and delaying treatment, which only hurts the veterans.
     Now, I hate to seem too negative because there are a few perks, besides free healthcare for our veterans, to the VA.  One being the readily accessible stocked assistive devices, modalities, equipment, etc that we can issue to veterans as needed.  Also, having the option to order whatever we need to help improve a veteran’s function is a welcomed bonus, especially when not dealing with insurance or third party payers, like in the private sector.  Sending equipment home with a veteran the same day is awesome and has resulted in hugs by patient’s and their families (only slightly awkward for the non-hugger like me).  Unfortunately the perks do not outweigh how disheartening it is to see what some of these veterans have to go through to get access to care.   Many of my patients drive over 3 hours just to reach a VA facility with appropriate services.
Photo credit: Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

     Insufficient funding with limited oversight of a broken system is the greatest downfall of the government sector.  This leads to less locations with full services, significantly understaffed facilities, and an underserved veteran population.
     Now over the past year, I had begun to grow an appreciation for some type of free healthcare system, that was until I worked 5 months at a VA facility and realized that the government should never run a healthcare system.  Don’t get me wrong, there is great care to be had through the VA; if only you could get timely access to it.
     I really don’t like to complain about things without having a solution or at least a realistic idea for changing a situation.  Currently the VA attempts to remedy this access issue by creating policies for the policies and cutting clinical positions, which in my short time at the VA does not appear to work.  It seems the logical steps to help this problem would be to minimize administrative positions and hire more actual productive clinicians. However unrealistic those ideas fantasies might be, we should still attempt to channel our inner Lorax and Horton to work toward some kind of change.
Photo credit: Pinterest

Photo credit: Pinterest

     Even with all of the pitfalls within the VA system, I am thoroughly enjoying my time working with the veterans.  Having the opportunity to hear their stories is very rewarding when dealing with all the government bureaucracy.   I hope we can find a way to better serve our veterans that have sacrificed more than we know for our freedom.
*the pictures below are of the beautiful Roseburg VA campus
The place I called "home" for 20 weeks!

The place I called “home” for 20 weeks!

National cemetery

Roseburg National Cemetery on the VA campus

Roseburg National Cemetery on the VA campus

VA cemetery