Working in the healthcare industry is tough. Being a therapist is even tougher. You are constantly being challenged by a patient and their families for active participation. Your manager looks at you to complete your pending paperwork. The other team members might be pushing a patient for discharge. And you have a team member (PTA or PT) who gives you hard time for the plan of care, or your techniques, the school went to or any other small thing that he or she can talk about. Yes, I am talking about that therapist or therapist assistant who constantly finds a problem in you or your ideas. This article discusses how to improve the relationship between the therapist and assistant.
When we work in a rehab clinic, it is important to have a good relationship with our co-workers. Granted, we can not be friends with everyone. However, we need to be able to get along with each other. We need to have a good enough relationship that we can openly communicate with each other regarding patient care. Having a bitter relationship with your coworkers will result in you dreading to go to the job or maybe even looking for other available options. With over a decade of experience dealing with different people, I can tell you this: no matter where you go, you are going to see those personalities, you will meet that Tom, Dick & Harry… changing the job or ignoring the problem is not a solution. The right answer is knowing and learning how to deal with a different personality. The argument here is not who is right or wrong. Rather, it is how to survive together as a team.
Many difficult problems are solved with proper communication. If you are a PT and think your PTA is giving you a hard time, you break the ice and start communicating. Just be sure to watch your tone and be nice about what you are saying or asking. It is not what you say, but how you say that matters.
For example: As a PT, you can ask your PTA about a treatment session with a patient. Explain to them that you are worried or concerned about the patient because of so and so (maybe his medical condition, maybe his family dynamic, etc..). The information you have may not have been traveled to your PTA. So, the chances are your PTA will appreciate you providing him/her this information. This little initiation may make your PTA feel comfortable or confident enough to talk with you next time. This is the first step.
Or It may be that you are a PTA and your PT does not treat you with respect. You can start treating them with more respect, have a conversation with them without avoiding them. No one will want to ignore a good conversation with a smile. You will start developing a rapport with your colleague.
Choosing the right time and place:
By any means, I am not saying that one conversation will solve all the problems. However, this can act as a starting point. It has to start somewhere and gradually you see improvement in the relationship. You need to make sure you are having this discussion privately. You going to “share critical information” in front of a patient or other members, is most likely NOT going to improve your relationship with that person.
2. Personality Types:
This is a reality for many problems. Different personality types cause people to clash. People get mad, upset, take it personally and there goes the balanced relationship!! Everyone is different. Everyone’s upbringing, culture, family backgrounds, thought process, beliefs, education, likes/dislikes are unique to that individual. This is what makes us a human being. So we have to respect each other’s individuality.
That one annoying thing that pushes your button so hard, may just be a normal nature of other individuals. You need to remind yourself to be mature. That we are here for work (40 hours a week) and we can manage that particular behavior without it getting to us. Of course, you can get the help of some coffee to calm you down 😉
I also want to mention a trick that has worked almost always. If there is a behavior that makes you angry or annoyed. Next time you see that behavior, ask the person meaning of that or reason for that. I know sometimes people are just unaware of something that they are doing. But, sometimes you will hear very interesting stories that will actually make you laugh and relax you. You will be surprised by different beliefs different cultures hold and follow.
3. You Are Equal – A Part of Team — Completing the Big Puzzle
We need to remember that even we are called a therapist and assistant, we are a part of one team. Yes, there is a difference in both degrees. They have different eligibility to work. But that does not make one person bigger and other smaller. I have met and worked with an excellent assistant (PTA and COTA) with really good knowledge and high skill sets. If you start respecting each other for what they do (no matter their titles) you will not have issues in working with anyone.
Respecting each other’s work will help you in many ways. You may find the issue (maybe that difficult patient or using the difficult equipment) that you are facing for a long time, has an easy solution to it. At the end of the day, you are going to learn something new and come out as a better person/therapist.
4. Knowledge is a Key: Brainstorming is Creative
This is little interwoven with the previous topic of being team members. If you start a topic and ask to share ideas, this opens up people to discuss their thoughts. Sharing ideas and thoughts helps in team building. It creates a bond between people to share their experiences good or bad. We all can learn from each other’s experience and improve. Who knows, you may find someone went to the same school or had the same teacher etc 🙂
Brainstorming also makes people think outside of the box and challenges creativity. This is important in our field. Also, when people start sharing their ideas and thoughts, they forget those small – small issues they felt at one point with one another. This is why you will see managers or directors asking open-ended questions and encourages talks in their meetings. It is a scientifically proven team-building technique.
5. Patient Matters…
This is a must. Anything you do should be patient-centered while you are at work. So if you feel the patient care or service is jeopardizing, than please bring it up to your supervisor. You can always talk with the person directly and share your thoughts if you are comfortable. You need to remember that the patient should be at the center of the care that we provide.
Knowledge Is Power:
Contradictory, if you have a difficult or medically complex patient, please don’t hesitate to ask for help. It may that senior-most therapist in the team has all the knowledge and you two are not getting along. Please put your issues aside and take the first step to communicate with that therapist regarding your concerns and ideas for the treatment approach. One of the two things will happen by this: You initiating communication will show that you are mature and put your patient before your personal issues. By doing that other team members will respect you. Or that experienced, knowledgeable therapist will challenge you to find some answers. Either way, you are a winner. You are going to get something that is going to improve your therapist skills and make you a better therapist.
Even though this article is for the relationship between therapist and assistant, it can really be applied to team members. Hope the ideas provided here help you to improve your relationship with your team members. And if not, then hey you can say to yourself, that you TRIED. You really did. That makes you a good human being and a better therapist. That is what is matters after all…