Get up at 4:45, go to the gym or work on other projects, go to work 8-4:30, make dinner, watch Sons of Anarchy or Big Brother, talk to my girlfriend, bed by 10:00 and repeat. That has pretty much been the schedule of this new grad for the last 2-3 weeks. Weekends have been a little busier trying to find an apartment and going on a float trip in 100+ temps, however; this was the first weekend where I had nothing to do…at all. It was a strange feeling I have to say. After being in school for so long, there was always something to study, roommates to hang out with, or classmates to have fun with. The lack of having something to do left me just killing time watching Netflix and trying to perfect my whiskey ginger cocktail recipe. After being so busy for so long I am not ready to have nothing to do.
It is awesome and terrifying to work for the VA. I love the patient population and my co-workers have been nothing outside of amazing. However, working as a PT at the VA was my end game. I didn’t figure there was any way that I would get in right away; it is very atypical to get right in with the VA after graduation. I actually have wondered if I am the youngest physical therapist working for the VA right now. While my co-workers are amazing, the majority of them are just at different points in their career than I am. I have always strived to do something more and love to push the envelope in an attempt to make things more streamlined and easier for myself and those around me. In the VA though, sometimes there are just different goals.
The push for evidence based practice isn’t as strong as it is in the private sector. This isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing, we have more access to equipment to help the veterans which is beneficial, however; as a new grad all I have right now is the evidence. I can’t lean on years of clinical experience to tell me if this person would benefit from ordering a traction unit. I still have to think of different interventions for a patient with cervical pain who doesn’t seem to have a directional preference. I now completely understand why clinicians say you learn more in your first year than you ever did in school.
Not only am I starting to develop my own flow for evaluations, I no longer have a CI to step in if I am going off track or missing something. Everything I do has to be done with a purpose and that purpose is to help the veteran. I have taken a more biopsychosocial approach in talking and listening to the patient. Many of times already patients have told me that no one has ever asked them what their pain limits, or what helps relieve their pain. I take pride in performing a very interactive evaluation. I am not going to sit there and act like I know exactly what is causing their pain, however I make an effort to let them know that I am here to help. After treating one veteran and flaring him up in session, I called to see how he was doing the next day. He got a little choked up that he had a doctor calling him and being invested in his care. There is so much good to be done in healthcare and I feel like at times we all miss the mark.
I have no idea what the future holds for me. It is so terrifying staring the next 40 years in the face. Through school there was always an end game. The goal of graduation was always there. School was extremely difficult to get through, however I am having difficulty adjusting to the non-academic lifestyle. I am not sure if this is a typical new grad feeling or not, but I just have a constant feeling of, “now-what?” Is the next step in life to get engaged, have kids, move into a house and start the family life? I know I could look back in my high school year book and see 17-year old Trace’s plan was to be working and raising two kids by our 10-year class reunion…well buddy, I don’t think we are going to make it there in the next two years. Can’t say for sure because technically there is still time, but with the hand I am holding right now, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
I never knew at 25 I would feel so young and rather afraid of the future. I am excited to see what life has in store, but for the first time all I know is that plans don’t always fall into place like you’d expect. I put in so much effort to get in with the VA and start a career that I know will be fulfilling in the long run. I just constantly have to tell myself that life is a long game. At 25 I am hopefully not even 1/4 of the way done yet and I feel like so much has already happened. However I haven’t even hit some of the major “life” milestones yet. There is a lot still on the horizon, buying a home, saying “I do”, holding my child for the first time, and all of these things are just what I consider the beginning of the adult life.
I doubt that I am the only one feeling this way with all of the new grads from college, PT school, or even someone who graduated high school. I wanted to write my thoughts down just in-case someone else was going through a similar quarter life crisis and didn’t know anyone to relate to personally. While the working world is much less stressful than school right now, it brings on its own weight. Please feel free to reach out if you want to talk about how you’re managing a big life change. With a move, apartment hunting, graduation, starting a new career, I am sure there are things we can relate on. Thanks to anyone who takes the time to read my blogs, I truly appreciate it and I hope the little insight into my thoughts helps make your day a little better.
Until next time my friends!
I am a new graduate DPT and am interested in personal growth and becoming a connector within my profession.