During this Super Bowl weekend, watch how the quarterback directs his team and take note of how it parallels our PT profession. We are now the Quarterback of Healthcare
Now that we have direct access, we have a new responsibility. Patients come to us first for their healthcare concerns, which puts us in the position of quarterback of the patients’ musculoskeletal healthcare. We are now a doctoral profession and a key trait of doctors and quarterbacks is executive decision making and leadership.
Just as I did when researching the physical therapy profession, patients may be confused about the meaning of the letters after your name or how we differ from massage therapists and athletic trainers. For example, what separates a quarterback from other positions like wide receivers, running backs, or the offensive line, is that the quarterback determines the course of action for the team by choosing a play and by delegating tasks in order to score. Since we are now in a QB position, the same applies to us. We differ from PTAs, athletic trainers, and massage therapists by being in the position to choose the plan of care (play), delegating responsibilities, and leading everyone to an end destination of crossing the patient (football) over the goal line.
The Right Direction: There is a great movement amongst the profession to bring value to patients and a great way to do that is to know what the patients value the most. As Paul Gough says, “In healthcare, patients are conditioned from a young age to run to doctors to make decisions for them. As time goes on, this becomes ingrained in their behavior and becomes what patients value the most.”
As Greg Todd says, “People are looking for answers to their musculoskeletal pain and are paying you as a Physical Therapist to provide them and decide for them the next course of action. If you are able to provide this service, patients will have a new respect for you and will instantly understand the difference between you and other professionals.”
If you really think about it, Superbowl-winning quarterbacks were more valued for their knowledge and decision-making skills on the field, as opposed to their athletic ability. In the healthcare field, the same can be said for physicians; even surgeons are more valued for their knowledge, as opposed to what they actually do to the patient. As physical therapists, we are the quarterbacks and doctoral experts, and our greatest value is in our ability to make decisions. Whether the patients tell you that or not, this is what they value the most.
So my skills don’t matter? Your skills are important and necessary. A QB must have a strong accurate arm, athleticism, and the ability to take a hit to survive and be successful in the NFL. The same is true for our profession. We must have sound fundamental training, strength and endurance regardless of setting, accurate and calculated technique, wise modality choices, and the ability to manage the stress of a high patient load or difficult case. However, as much as we value our clinical skills, we should remember that the patient may not have the same appreciation for them as we do.
So what’s the play? Quarterbacks use iPads for playbooks, review film of the opposing team, and have keywords for certain plays, blocking positions, and routes. Just like quarterbacks, we should use stories, analogies, models, and technology to educate patients on pain, to explain impairments, and to setup the proper plan of care.
The thing about quarterbacks is that, if the play is ran correctly, little physical activity is needed on most plays–most of what they do is cerebral. They evaluate the defense, call a timeout, talk with the coaching staff and change the play if necessary, then throw or hand the ball off to their teammates. As Physical therapists, the same can happen with us. As doctors, what we can do is evaluate impairment, establish a plan of care, refer when necessary, delegate tasks to our teammates (nurses, physicians, massage therapists, trainers, the patient, and family members), change the play as necessary, then run the play and get the patient across the goal line.
The plays we can run:
Marketing: Many PTs struggle with marketing and a great way to separate yourself from the crowd is to know what your customers really want: direction and answers. By marketing yourself as a clinician who provides direction and answers, you will build a long-term brand of trust and respect with your patients.
Telehealth: You may or may not like it, but either way it is here. Telehealth is a great tool we can use as the primary clinician for musculoskeletal care. Of course, not everything can be accomplished through telehealth. However, it is tool to use throughout the plan of care. Evaluations (limited), answered questions, scheduling, home exercise programs, “bad weather” appointments, and post discharge communication can all be done through telehealth.
Humility: We may not always be the quarterback in every situation. Be a team player and know when to lead and when to follow when working with other professionals.
Thank You for Your Attention.
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Edited: Ffrancesca Famorcan