I just returned from the Combined Sections Meeting (CSM), the annual conference of the American Physical Therapy Association.  Over 17,000 physical therapists from around the country (and some from other countries as well) attended the conference, which featured programming from 18 of the subspecialty practices in physical therapy.  I am most involved in the Academy of Acute Care Physical Therapy as well as the Education Section, and I dabble in Neurology, Geriatrics, and Health Policy/Administration.  I always return from this conference feeling inspired and motivated after learning from the experts in the industry, discussing the goals and ambitions of our practice, and meeting the present-day heroes in the profession.  Every year I return to work with a long list of ideas to implement in clinical practice, leadership, and clinical education.  This year I was especially intrigued about the technological innovations that are changing the way we practice healthcare, the creative and visionary ideas that physical therapist leaders have about providing the best care for patients, and the plans for big future changes regarding how we educate students in the field.  Accumulating knowledge also makes me realize how much more I have to learn, which is exciting and motivating but also scary and astonishing at times.  I admit that I feel overwhelmed about how rapidly healthcare continues to evolve, but I feel more and more confident in the career I have chosen.

One lecture that stood out to me at this year's conference was titled "Coddiwomple," which means to travel purposefully toward a vague destination.  This is often how I feel, not just in my career but in life in general.  Every day is purposeful, productive, and organized; I set and accomplish goals; I feel that I am making a difference; and yet, the end point remains fuzzy at times.  The speaker urged us, instead, to travel purposefully toward a clear destination by imagining what technology, healthcare, and design will look like in 20 years.  We know that change takes 15-20 years to occur, so the things we do now are impacting the next generation of PTs.  Well, in looking back on how much our lives have changed in the past 20 years, it's truly unbelievable to even try to picture what kind of world we will live in 20 years from now.  What types of patients will be in hospitals, and what patients will instead receive care exclusively at home?  What aspects of our jobs will be completed by machines, or through telecommunication, or by robots, and what aspects will remain humanistic?  Will technology bring us closer together, or push us apart?  Will therapists, like physicians, specialize in a specific area of practice, and what will that look like?  Will students ever sit in a lecture hall for classes, or will they interact through online venues while sitting at home in their apartments?  Will there be more physical therapists, serving as autonomous practitioners and primary care providers for mobility-related impairments?  Or, on the contrary, will there actually be fewer physical therapists, with aides and assistants doing the bulk of treatment interventions?  And who is going to pay for the care that patients receive?  Will healthcare be recognized as a human right, or as a privilege for those who can afford it?  Will the provision of high quality healthcare be equal and nonjudgmental, or will discrepancies in health literacy, education, and access lead to a deepening divide in health status?

Two years ago after returning from CSM, I set the following goals for professional development: 1) to advocate for my profession and for autonomous practice, 2) to approach workplace conflict directly and professionally, 3) to "be the change," and 4) to surround myself with people who uphold the same standards of practice as myself.  I believe I am on my way to accomplishing these aims, and that these are ongoing goals that I have for myself.

This year, I really got to thinking about my "10 year plan."  In June of this year I will have been out of PT school for 7 years.  Seven years?!  In that time I have accomplished a lot in terms of leadership responsibilities, committee membership, hospital recognition, presenting lectures at the national level, educating students in their clinicals, mentoring other staff members, doing clinician-focused research projects, developing policies, integrating volunteer work into my career practice, contributing positively to my work team, modeling professional behaviors, and maintaining work-life balance.  But I still feel that I have a long way to go.  Professional behavior is something we continue to cultivate throughout our careers.  Intuition takes many years and hundreds or thousands of repetitions to develop.  Expertise requires a lifelong commitment to excellence and learning.  And we all need to be mentored, and to be a mentor for others.  Where do I see myself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?

These are some of the goals I hope to accomplish in the next three years:
1) Develop a more specific and organized curriculum for student education and preparation of clinical instructors.
2) Consistently use valid outcome measures in my practice.
3) Stay up to date on current research, especially in the areas of Acute Care and Geriatrics. 
4) Successfully implement the Collaborative Clinical Education Model (2:1 student to instructor ratio) at my site.
5) Explore leadership opportunities in my state association.
6) Become more involved in legislative action.
7) Be joyful in my work and contribute positively to my team.

My long-term goal is to obtain a specialist certification through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties, which recognizes expertise and advanced knowledge in a specific area of practice, but right now I'm still not sure which path of specialization I will choose. 

I'm excited to be part of a career that is dynamic and evolving, and one that offers opportunities for leadership and career advancement.  I'm excited to see what the future in physical therapy will hold.  So for now, I aim to move with purpose toward a (somewhat less) vague destination...


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