Learning on the Road: Reflections from a Week of Clinical Observation
Greetings from chilly, rainy Spokane! I am currently enjoying the weekend with my family following a jam-packed week of immersive clinical shadowing and education at Synergy Healthcare.
Synergy is an outpatient physical and occupational therapy clinic specializing in advanced manual therapy techniques not commonly found in many practices, and offers particularly effective programming for individuals managing complex and chronic pain. I was personally excited to note that a disproportionately large percentage of Synergy's patient population present with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and other hypermobility spectrum disorders, as this is a population I work with frequently in my own practice (hello, circus artists and dancers!). Spending time in a clinic full of practitioners who are not only aware of hypermobility spectrum disorders, but have well-developed treatment protocols for this specialized population made me very happy!
As a solo practitioner, it is tremendously important to find ways to continue learning, comparing notes, and collaborating with other practitioners in order to keep growing and offering the best possible care to my clients. At home in Philly, I regularly meet with a PT colleague and friend to practice and share manual therapy skills, share and discuss published research, and develop strategies for working with conditions and presentations that tend to be poorly understood in most clinical settings. My partner Noah and I often compare notes on movement and biomechanics, and his cuing and coaching have been tremendously helpful to integrate into both my work with clients and my personal movement practice. These collaborative and interdisciplinary exchanges keep me from feeling stagnant in my practice, push me to think critically, and (perhaps most importantly) keep me humble and curious.
One insight that hit me during my time at Synergy is the understanding that some individuals who appear unable to tolerate many therapeutic interventions may respond very well to a completely different treatment approach. While some physical therapy patients do just fine warming up on a stationary bike, running through their therapeutic exercises with some cuing, and finishing with some joint mobilizations from their therapist, others may need a lot more feedback and facilitation to break out of a pain cycle before they even start to move. I am certainly developing a much greater appreciation for therapeutic movement as a process of integration within the body, and a means rather than an end.
Another great thing about being immersed in different clinical settings is having the opportunity to observe and explore new and interesting treatment techniques and modalities. There is so much out there in the world of continuing education, and it can be very overwhelming to sort out the hyped-up marketing gimmicks from the skills and tools that could fill a missing link in my practice. Following this clinical experience, I plan to take steps toward training in Fascial Counterstrain technique, a very gentle, patient-centered method designed to help release reflexive spasms in the body. As a clinician who identifies as a "facilitator" rather than a "fixer"(because the body is not a machine, and I am not a mechanic), this approach is right up my alley!
Overall, I am feeling inspired, refreshed, and excited to integrate my learning back on the table at Root & Branch.
See you soon,