By Brett Windsor, PT, PhDc, MPA, OCS, FAAOMPT
Life has become too academic. Certification for this, diploma for that, doctorate for something else. Seemingly, it is now impossible to perform even the simplest of tasks without a certification. How much of it is needed? Really? Is there another way to the rank of expert? Many experts have nothing more than a diploma.Yet in the clinic, it takes no time at all to realize the level of true mastery these clinicians have achieved. It’s always interesting to talk to experts about how they became masters. Three answers are routinely recited:
1. Experts read…a lot. On average, an article or two a day. Perhaps an unusual pathology that presented during the morning. Maybe a piece on anatomy, physiology, or biomechanics. Or, consider a thoughtful debate about the virtues of a certain management technique. Then, at least skimming monthly journals. To that point, what should manual therapists read to stay on top of things? Consider Manual Therapy, JMMT, JOSPT & Spine for a good start. Regular reading helps to deepen and broaden your ability to recognize patterns. It can substitute for experience you don’t yet have. The best do it…often. How much are you reading?
2. Experts value informal learning. Two years ago at IFOMPT, the President of AAOMPT said something rather astonishing; “We no longer do our business in bars”. While this is no doubt true, are we better off because of it? CS Lewis & JRR Tolkien met weekly at a bar in London to discuss matters of great import. Their literary accomplishments were hardly impeded. Informal settings remove barriers. The vestiges of time temporarily blur; deep and more thoughtful discussions occur. Long-term relationships develop and grow. What do you remember more – the course, or the fellowship? Has the fun of manual therapy left us? Are we really better off?
3. Experts value mentorship. Experts crave spending extensive one on one time with people who are better than they. Experts constantly seek to be tested and compared against those with more scars. Is there a better way to learn than by putting yourself in a position to receive constructive criticism from an expert? They’ve made the mistakes, perfected the art. Mentorship helps to develop patterns. Mentorship allows mistakes, but aids in avoiding their repetition. Mentorship stimulates the thinking mind; it asks questions and develops coherent answers. Above all, it creates a life-long professional relationship. Do you have a mentor?
Notably absent from the above is academic preparation. Academics are important; we’re not going back to on the job apprenticeships, although many in medicine believe that’s exactly the direction we should be taking – out of the classroom and back to the clinic. Where are the current trends in medical education? Outcome-based learning objectives, OSCE, reflective learning experiences and narrative feedback. Put simply, the medical education world is rediscovering the value of doing, being watched, and then providing detailed narrative feedback that allow learners to reflect on their own performance. Does PT value reflection? Really?
In many areas, manual physical therapy is on the right track. We recognized the value of mentorship long before most. We developed programs with mentorship at their core. Residencies are becoming ubiquitous; new DPT graduates are strongly encouraged to continue formal learning. The key to long-term learning is mentorship. Mentorship makes or breaks a post-graduate learning experience. In the old days, mentorship was largely informal…today its largely formal. Ah, the yearning for the timeless…the tried and true, that which works. Now there’s a new topic entirely. We’ll get to that…
What say you?