WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO TAKE A RISK?
Sam: I think there are different types of risks. The risks I tend to take, usually make my heart flutter because I’m trying something new but my life isn’t on the line.
Amy: For me, I need to feel that the potential benefit of taking the risk far outweighs any negative impact that may occur from not taking the risk at all.
HOW DOES RISK TAKING CHANGE OVER A LIFETIME?
Sam: I think in middle school, I would ask myself “When I’m retired, what will I regret more: doing X or not doing X?” Usually the answer was “not doing X” so I tried whatever it was. In college, “risk taking” has become more of “X will probably help someone else, let’s see how it goes”. That’s probably why it’s so easy to take “risks”. The idea that people like helping one another makes the chances of success really high. I tend not to think of risk taking in terms of regret anymore, just how can I help another person. As I grow into a clinician, my thought process is more of “X may help the patient, let’s collaborate to see if it works”.
Amy: When have I taken risks? My entire life. I think about my first job as a physical therapist and what moments defined me. Leaving a very comfortable job after 12 years where I was well respected within the non-for profit hospital organization for a new job, a new opportunity for a national for profit organization, to only leave that job after 4 years and take a tenure track position at a University….risky….yes. Taking that last job led me to return to school at the age of 40 and pursue a PhD with a husband and two young kids. Risky, yes, somewhat, but I don’t think as risky as what current students take when they enter a DPT program. I mean, I had a PT license, if academia did not work out, I could always go back and work as a clinician. I feel that DPT students have much more on the line than I did when I returned back to school. They also have much more debt than I had when I completed my entry level PT education back in 1993. At the age of 43, I graduated with my PhD, another risk that has paid off.
Sam: AMY, HOW DO YOU HELP STUDENTS TAKE RISKS?
Amy: I help students take risks by providing a safe and supportive environment for them. As a teacher, they know that I will be assessing them, so I need to make sure to provide lots of opportunity for students to practice as well as give them feedback so they can make adjustments prior to being graded. I also share my “mistakes” with them. I think that being open with my students that I am not perfect allows them to recognize the fact that they are not perfect.
WHAT EXAMPLES DO WE HAVE WHEN IT COMES TO TAKING RISKS IN THE CLINIC?
Sam: During my 6 week clinical (internship) I was able to work with a female high schooler. After a couple of weeks of treatment, she still seemed slightly hesitant about the treatment. She came to all her sessions and did her H.E.P.(home exercise program). However, there was just something slightly off. So I took a risk, I asked her if she thought PT would help her. I gambled the patient-clinician relationship that I truly valued. She was honest, and answered no. So I asked her how come? She said, because PT didn’t help her mom, and her PT with another therapist didn’t seem like a challenge. So then we talked about how the treatment for her mom and her are different. I also asked her to promise me if her current treatment was too easy to tell me, because I can always make it harder and worth her time.
Amy: In my early years, I worked at a hospital that embraced mobility in critically ill patients; however, I had not seen anyone try to ambulate someone who was on a ventilator…so I decided to recruit a group of health professionals (nurse, respiratory therapist, physical therapist assistants) and walk a person who had been on a ventilator for over a month. When we got into the hallway, I wanted to hear applause….didn’t get that, but seeing the look on that patient’s face when he was able to walk without being confined by the ventilator tubing was priceless. My advice, don’t put off something to do tomorrow that you can do today.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What risks have you taken? What risks will you take in the future? What helps you take risks? Are risks worth taking?