I have been a Physical Therapist Assistant for over 22 years...but I haven't worked as a Physical Therapist Assistant that whole time. I have continued reading and studying topics that related to my field over the years, and kept my license current, thinking maybe someday I'd want to go back. But as the time not working grew, I started to wonder if it'd be possible. Would any clinic want me anymore? I felt like my treatment skills were still there, waiting to be tapped, but who'd take a chance on me?
A few years back, well more like 13 years to be precise, I was frustrated by the changes that had been made to the billing of Medicare for the services of Physical Therapy. I worked for a company that provided rehab in Skilled Nursing Facilities. I was asked to treat my patients in groups, people that really needed one on one attention were shuttled down to rehab for a group therapy class. It felt slimy and unethical to me. I also ended up driving myself to two and three different facilities in a day to get in eight hours of work. The magic of healing and caring sputtered out for me. Lucky for me, we didn't need my income anymore, and I was able to do my husband's bookkeeping from home and be a full-time mom (which is about 20 jobs bundled into one).
2 out of my 3 children are now adults, as of a few days ago. I only have my "little bit" to mother, and she's growing up too fast. I know it'll be a blink of an eye before she's tossing her graduation cap in the air as well, and taking off for college, and leaving me home. Alone. So, my husband and I discussed me dipping my toes back into work as a Physical Therapist Assistant. I signed up for a registry, not really thinking anyone would actually want me, I have been out of the field for some time.
Lo and behold, I was wanted. And, so, I grudgingly filled out all the paperwork, got a PPD skin test, took a drug test (my first ever, how exciting), and sent it all in. I received a name tag, haven't had one of those in a long time, some timesheets, and the knowledge someone would call me soon. A little tension developed in the pit of my stomach, but I'd just released Return of the Crown, and had a lot of other things to keep me distracted. I didn't hear anything for awhile, and secretly was glad. I know how to treat patients, that wasn't my concern, it was whether or not I'd find joy in the job and I had doubts about my ability to do the job too. I can admit that, if I'm really being honest with myself. I always like to give my best, be the best, and I'd want to be worth the money someone was spending for my services. I absolutely didn't want to fail, to be a letdown to myself, my family, the company that dared to hire me...
Tuesday afternoon, I received a call to arms. Was I available to work the next day. Augh, yes, no, yes. What I really said was as long as the facility knew I had been out for a long time and they were okay with it, I'd do it. Committed. Damn, they knew and were happy to have me.
Wednesday I dropped my husband off at the train, came home to gather all my supplies (timesheet, nametag, gait belt, courage) and then headed across town to a Subacute facility that needed an extra hand for the day. I felt sick to my stomach. I left an almost entirely full cup of coffee in my car, that is VERY unlike me. I am generally a very easy going person and it takes a lot to ruffle my feathers. I honestly felt panicked, something I am unaccustomed to, and it was making me physically ill. I was worried about what lay behind the glass doors of the facility, and whether or not I'd be productive enough, whether I'd find my way about, whether I'd be able to document patient levels correctly, whether or not I still had "it".
Fortunate for me, the therapists I worked with yesterday were all fantastic! Such a supporting and friendly staff was my joy to encounter. I was still nervous, I honestly thought I might throw up at one point. But, I kept shoving the nerves back and paid attention to the new way of charting, all done on the PC. I have mentioned it's been awhile since I've been in a clinic, right? I sort of miss flipping through the chart at the nurses station, but, I think over time, I'll get to like the online charts just as well.
As I was looking through the online charts, and trying to figure out my schedule, my nerves kept squirming around in my guts. Finally I made a smart move. I decided to just go get a patient, and let the charting fall into place later. The Occupational Therapy Assistant asked if I would co-treat a patient with her. Not sure if it was in sympathy for me, or if she really needed my help, but it was a great way to start my working day. Back in the saddle again.
I am happy to report, that I did indeed enjoy my day. It was filled with a rehab therapists norms for any given day: someone thought they were going to faint while walking (she was a large lady, and I absolutely did not want her to fall on my watch), a couple people didn't really want to do therapy (let's face it, going to PT is not on your list of fav's when you're sick and out of commission) but I was able to cajole them into it, patients genuinely appreciated the time and energy I poured in to them, someone else was sick with a nasty fever, so I did let them off for the day. Being able to work with the patients one on one, was fantastic! Transfers, Gait, Exercises, Bed Mobility, Stretching...it's all good.
As I left the facility, I came away feeling optimistic about my first day back in the field. There are things I wish had gone smoother, but I know the next time I go, I won't have to fight my fears as well. I fought that battle and won! Everything is coming back, skills are snapping back in place. I got this. I came home, played with my daughers, went to dinner, came home and fell sound asleep, exhaustion claiming me. The beauty of registry is this, if I don't want to work, I can say no. But, having had a nice first day out (after I finally calmed my nerves) I know I will say yes again.