As newer OncoPTs, we sometimes put extra pressure on ourselves to be the perfect oncology physical therapist.  That if we don’t demonstrate our knowledge, our competence, our maturity in oncology to our patients right away, then we’re not doing it right.

We may have this idea of how an expert oncology physical therapist shows up, dresses, talks with patients, treats patients, advocates for the profession, attends tumor boards, markets to oncologists, etc.

So pause right here: who did you just picture in your head?  What do they dress like?  What do they talk like?  How do they treat patients?

If it’s some crusty, stiff, 100 year old therapist in a button down & dress pants, that’s only one version of an oncology physical therapist.

The reality is, not every patient needs that version of an OncoPT.  In fact, your patient likely needs something else entirely.

The Illusion of “Professional”

When I was a newer OncoPT, I had this weird concept that in order for patients to take me seriously, I had to act in a very specific way.

I believed that I had to be serious all the time, with very rigid & structured sessions, in order to get the job done.

So I rarely shared anything about me, the real me, beyond the surface niceties.  

But instead of demonstrating my “professionalism,” this actually backfired.  In trying to seem “professional,” I came off as distanced, rigid, & sometimes hard to connect with.  I didn’t form meaningful relationships with my patients.

As you can probably imagine, this strategy did not last very long.  It was frankly exhausting to keep it up, especially in cancer rehab, when so much of what we do depends on building a strong relationship with our patient.  

So instead of my early robot strategy, here’s what I wish I would have done instead from the very beginning.

The Very Best Strategy for Treating Patients with Cancer
Show up fully as yourself.

This is not “let your crazy flag fly.”

But don’t show up as a robot.

Back in Ep. 110 with DocJayPT, she discussed her own way of connecting with patients.  She knew early in her career that she wanted a real connection with her patients, not something rigid & fake like she’d seen before.

Now, she has probably the equivalent of a PT community empire, helping legions of patients by first showing up as herself. #goals, am I right?

Until next time, this is Elise with TheOncoPT.  And remember you are exactly the physical therapist that your patients with cancer need. So let’s get to work.