Diversity Career Stories Healthcare

Physical therapy aide dreams of opening a bakery

In this interview, we get insight into what it is like to work in a physical therapy office as an aide. She explains how she came to secure this job while going to school with the goal of becoming a physical therapist, and shares that the most meaningful part of the job is the relationships that she builds with her coworkers and patients.

What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?
I work as a Physical Therapy Aide for a therapy center. I have held this position for almost 3 years. Helpful, dependable, and sociable are the 3 words I would use to describe myself.

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best? Do you speak another language, and has it been helpful in your career?
I am a Pacific Islander female, and my gender and ethnic background have not hindered me. I have not experienced discrimination in my jobs, and unfortunately, I do not speak another language.

How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?
In my job, I help patients with modalities after their physical therapy. This may include putting ice on their injuries, or performing electrical stimulation. I also help with keeping the gym clean, the mats sanitized, and making sure there are clean pillow cases and towels. This work entails a lot of walking around and interacting with the patients and therapists. The only misunderstanding I want to correct is that some people think that I am a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?
I would rate my job satisfaction as a 9. I enjoy my job, in that I get to meet new people every day. I also develop friendships with the patients since they have to come for months for their therapy. The atmosphere that I work around is fun, bubbly, and entertaining. There is never a dull moment around the gym. The therapists and I try to keep the atmosphere lighthearted and easygoing, since the patients have to deal with a lot of pain due to their injuries. There is really nothing that needs to change except for wanting the application process for Physical Therapy school to be a little easier.

If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?
This job does move me, because the friendships I develop here, whether its with my coworkers or the patients, are lasting. It’s a satisfying feeling when I see a patient at the grocery store or around town smiling, happy, and see them back on their feet. I can see myself with a career in this field, but I would like to do something creative or
artistic. My sweet spot would be something in photography or baking. My lifelong dream is to be able to open up my own little bakery shop downtown.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?
To work in the physical therapy field, you have to be able to interact with the public. If you are shy or reclusive, then this is not a job for you. For years, I used to be extremely shy. I was afraid to open up and talk to people. I wouldn’t even look people in the eye and smile at them. However, I had a friend who was honest with me, and basically told me that I needed to change. So, I did. It took a long time, but I eventually was able to come out of my shell. I don’t think I would have been able to get this job as a physical therapist aide if I was still that shy, little girl.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I was going to college to get a degree, then apply for physical therapy school. I found out through a friend that there was an opening for an aide position at a therapy center. I called the director and talked with him, had an interview the next day, and I got the job. I wouldn’t change anything. I wanted the job and went for it.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?
One thing you have to know about working in a small clinic or center is that “word travels fast.” People love to gossip, and coworkers love to gossip about coworkers. I learned that there were some things that I didn’t need to share at work or with certain coworkers.

What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?
The single most important thing I have learned is that you will be remembered most for your work ethic.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?
The strangest thing that ever happened was when a tornado went down the road just in front of our building.

Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?
I get up and go to work each day because I enjoy working with the people I work for. They are fun, caring, and we look out for each other. I also getting to see the patients we work with. Since we are a small clinic in a country town, we have that Mayberry atmosphere. What really makes me feel good is when I’m out sick or on vacation, the patients check up on me when I get back. They tell me that they missed me, if I’m feeling better, or how my vacation was. It’s nice getting to work in that kind of environment.

What kind of challenges do you face and what makes you just want to quit?
The challenge I face is just being able to multitask and make sure all the patients are taken care of. Nothing makes me want to quit more than when I have to deal with an unhappy patient.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance? How?
My job is not stressful at all, and I’m able to maintain a healthy work-life balance. With my job, I’m able to have holidays and weekends off, and work a 7-5 job. So I’m able to do the things I enjoy after work and on the weekends.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?
The salary range is based on your work experience, and is comfortable for students working through college or a single adult.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
I take a reasonable amount of vacation. The job offers vacation/sick leave where you can take an ample amount of time off to go on vacation.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
For a physical therapy aide position, it’s on the job training. For a physical therapist, you need a bachelor’s degree in order to get into grad school for the doctorate degree. For a physical therapist assistant, you can get an associate degree from a PTA program

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
That it is a wonderful opportunity to be able to work in a field that helps improve people’s lives. It is a chance to work in a friendly environment, and get to meet new people every day.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
I would like to be a wife, mother, and homemaker. After my children are grown up, I hope to one day open up my very own bakery.