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Herb was one of my earliest recollections of my 13-year career as a practitioner. He taught me a valuable lesson one day: the one where all healthcare practitioners (MD’s, PTs, OT’s, nurses, etc.) ask each patient about their goals.

Herb, a senior, and newly recovering hip replacement patient was assigned to me to help heal. Being a new graduate and a personal trainer since I was 17 years old. I thought the right thing was strengthening. My favorite strengthening at the time was squats. Our clinic had an assisted squat machine called the Smith machine.

That’s what I did. Herb must be weak, I wasn’t taught too much about therapeutic exercise out of graduate school and was left to my vices. Because I earned the title of a “Doctor of Physical Therapy”, wasn't I supposed to know something? I am sad to say the truth is, I didn’t. That’s another story for another day.

Anyhow, Herb turned to me and looked at this machine and said: “Doc, what does this have anything to do with my goal: to walk my grand-daughter down the aisle for her wedding in 3 weeks?”

wedding, walking down the aisle

The Epiphany

Boy, did I feel like a sucker, the one in Looney Toons where Bugs Bunny turns into a lollipop? My goal was different than his, I didn’t ask him about a single goal. I missed the whole boat! This was not personalized care!

We didn’t do squats. We worked on gait patterns and balanced for the next couple of weeks to get him prepared for what was meaningful to him.

It seems simple enough, but all healthcare providers come from different backgrounds. Some project their goals based on their insecurities, some based only on the experiences they have had, and some make up their own goals thinking that is what the patient wants. These goals may fly for some patients but what happens when the goal is wrong? The answer: is to ASK and LISTEN. Listening takes time.

wedding flowers

Finish Line

The tricky part about these current times for providers is that time is something we don’t have. It is a true luxury when we have insurance reimbursements rising, and many providers are left to see more patients during the time.

Doesn’t it make sense to spend a minute to ask about goals? Fortunately, in our out-of-network model and the use of Neuromechanical Therapy (NMT), we require that time be given to each patient. Time to listen, time to plan, and time to inspire.

Heal smarter, not harder.

Dr. Justin C Lin

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