Today, I am excited to have my colleagues Tim Wixson on the blog. He was gracious enough to answer a few questions in our new series relating out outpatient/Sports Medicine clinic. I hope you find his words helpful and encouraging.
Where do you work? Describe the patient population in which you work.
For the last 13+ years, I have worked for Augusta University (multiple name changes over the years) in an outpatient orthopedic setting. Our clinic has a very unique variety of patients that we get to provide care for, including post-operative sports medicine cases, post-operative joint replacement cases, post-operative and non-operative trauma cases, as well as non-operative orthopedic patients.
What do you enjoy about working in your field of PT?
For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of being a PT in this setting is the time I get to spend with my patients. Most interactions that physicians and other health professionals have are not afforded the direct time with their patients. Over the years I have learned to really appreciate this difference. Another component of my job and field that I have come love and value is sharing a clinic space with several other PTs, which allows for almost constant collaboration and encouragement.
What are some of the unique physical, emotional, or spiritual challenges of working in your field as a PT?
From a physical perspective, I think the only challenge that stands out to me is the demand to be at work every day due to the nature of being a healthcare worker with my own caseload. Any time I’m out, the patients who are scheduled either have to be treated by a co-worker or rescheduled. So, I see my daily attendance as a service to my colleagues when I’m able to manage my caseload well.
Emotionally, I definitely have experienced more challenges over the years than maybe physical challenges. When trying to implement a plan of care for people who are only in your care because life is not how they want it to be at the current time, there is a certain burden and responsibility to help your patients begin progressing back their desired level of function. Many times, a PT is the first person that these patients see, outside of immediate family, after a significant surgery. Part of our job may be to help them establish healthy ways to combat the sense of being overwhelmed by their current circumstance. Sometimes we see young people who are battling to recover with very poor support systems and broken home lives. I’ve had to learn over the years to check my tendency to feel sorry for them, but rather, to appreciate their resilience and strength. My preference in treatment in general is to focus on the patient’s ability to help themselves, which helps me avoid drifting toward any kind of “savior” mindset of thinking that I am the reason that someone’s making progress.
I guess this is a good transition into some of the spiritual challenges I’ve experienced as a PT over my career. What I mentioned above has become a healthy posture for me to strive to maintain in the clinic. I think it’s pretty easy to meet physical needs for people and become prideful and overly confident in the ability to improve the lives of people under your care, and spiritual pride is a tough pattern of sin to uproot and remove from the garden of our soul.
How does your faith impact your work and how you view you patient interactions?
My faith in Jesus has impacted my desire to be an effective PT, first and foremost. Colossians 3:23 tells us that, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,” and having this modeled for me in the home I grew up in as well as the therapists I’ve been able to work alongside of clinically has allowed me to establish this Scripture as a daily aim. As mentioned before, learning to be alongside of my patients has also helped me turn to Jesus in intercession for my patients, because I’m less prone to attempt to carry their burden on my own if I can keep the perspective that it was never my burden to carry in the first place. In Matthew 11, Jesus reminds us that He invites ALL who labor and are heavy laden to take His yoke, and exchange our heavy burden for one which He calls light. This is my aim in my workplace, not to overlook the significance of what I have been blessed and gifted to do, but to understand that my patients are not in need of my skills apart from their need for Jesus. A consistent prayer of mine is to ask the Lord to provide opportunities to speak of the uniqueness of how we’ve been created and for Him to make very clear to me when there are open doors for spiritual conversations with patients.
Briefly describe a story in which you really ministered to a patient.
This may seem strange, but this is the hardest question for me to answer. Every day that I get to be in the clinic, I attempt to speak of God’s Word and how it shapes my thought processes and convictions. In my life, moments of significant ministry have been some of my greatest temptations of pride, so I have made efforts to share what the Lord has given me to speak and at the same time I pray that He protects me from seeing the impact it may have for that person. I know some may read this and wonder how someone would maintain this thought process without questioning whether their efforts have significance, but this is a pattern that has helped me abide in Jesus as we are called to do in John 15. His promise to those who abide in Him is a life that bears much fruit for which the Father is glorified (vs. 8).