Feeling lucky at work, every single day.

Around 9 months ago, I bid a tearful goodbye to a job I loved in Chicago and moved across the country to be with my husband in Los Angeles. At the time, I was sort of excited about all the new possibilities this sudden break meant in my career. But mostly, I was incredibly heartbroken. I did not want to leave the clientele I had worked so hard to build a relationship with over the past few years.

My path to finding this job I absolutely adored was a tough one. Years of working for hospitals and positions that were just not right for me left me feeling disappointed in our healthcare system and what it means to be a physical therapist in that system. I wasn’t just feeling burnt out. I started to question whether or not I even chose the right field. I had brochures from MBA schools and Art schools all piled up on my table, until I finally found a job that felt… just right. Over the next 3 years’ time, I watched hundreds of babies and children grow up and thrive. And I thrived too. When I left, I cried because I worried that I would never find a job I loved so much, with the clientele that I always knew I was meant to be helping.

As I was leaving Chicago, I already had an offer from a company I worked closely with in the past. I loved them and they loved me. I would get to work with babies and only babies, my favorite population. It was a very niche field, so niche that my peers looked down on the idea and warned me that it might get boring. I wanted the job but I also, in a way, didn’t want to disappoint my peers. I didn’t want other therapists to think that I came this far just to “settle” in to an “easy” job.   So in the month I had off from work, I stalled on making a decision. I attended conferences, I spoke with therapists in the school system, I toyed with the idea of working for a big children’s hospital again, I reached out to universities and researchers, I thought about maybe finally going into art. But what I realized then was that I had to make the choice that feels right for me, even if everyone else turned their noses up at the idea. I also realized that one decision does not lock me in to only one path. One decision was not going to close the door on all the other possibilities. The people I met and spoke with who went the path that I thought I wanted to go on (climb that career ladder, work for that large hospital system, and spend years in that laboratory), they were . . . exhausted. And unhappy.

At this one point in my career, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to continue to build relationships with people. I wanted to change lives for the better and be a healthcare professional people can count on and trust. And I wanted to know my clients. I wanted them to know that they can call me, even months and years after I have seen their kiddo. The professional relationship for me did not end when they walked out of the clinic. Babies grow up. Toddlers start school. New questions come up.

Fast forward to the past few months: I love my new job. Los Angeles is growing on me. It gets hectic some days. I went from having at most 9 clients a day to having 24 on a busy day. I still try hard to connect with people, even those I only meet once. Sometimes, one time is all I need to help them out where they need it. Sure, there are babies I wish I could spend more time with. There are families I wish I could help more than time allows. And that is why I started my own company on the side. Working for a niche population didn’t limit me. It revived me. Every day, the babies and parents I meet are helping me figure out how I can give more from my side, with the experience and knowledge I have. Every day, I count myself very lucky to have found a career that gives me so many choices and inspires me to do more.

Just yesterday, an old client reached out just to say hello and update me on their lives. I know I am lucky to wake up to an email like that instead of work emails that immediately make one dread the day ahead. Another parent told me today that they feel so lucky they have me to help them navigate their first year with a baby with special needs. I am the lucky one, I tell them. I am lucky that I have learned the valuable lessons from working for companies that were and were not right for me. I am lucky that I have the support from my clients and that they can be honest with me in terms of what kind of care they want from their healthcare providers.

No, I didn’t settle. I worked hard to build relationships with the people around me. They gave me an opportunity. I saw all the possibilities that came with something new. And I took it. I still count myself lucky of course. I am so lucky to be doing something I love. Every single day.

About PT4Peanuts

Judy is the proud owner of Lil' Peanuts Physical Therapy, P.C. She is a board certified pediatric specialist who has worked with children all across the country, from NICUs to outpatient day rehabilitation centers. She is an avid blogger and full proponent of APTA’s 2020 vision for physical therapy. Her passions lie in educating children, parents, teachers, clinicians, and future therapists so that they can best reach their full potential.
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