Should you try to learn coding?
Have you ever had the desire to start a new skill and then quickly realized how tough it was? Did you give up? Or accept that as a beginner you’re going to suck for a while and then maybe one day you can at least start to learn the ling o behind it? As I have gone through my first two years as a physical therapist I have worked in outpatient, acute care, inpatient rehab, and a skilled nursing setting. Needless to say, I have done quite a bit in the realm of physical therapy thus far. With well over 129 CEUs in my first 2 years out I have spent so much time and energy learning more about physical therapy and how to better treat my patients. With all of that extra time and money invested I thought I would feel more confident as a clinician and maybe even be compensated for my efforts..however that was not and will never be the case.
In the field of physical therapy there is a weird ceiling that you run into as a new clinician. You can negotiate your first salary, but since you are “new” you feel like you don’t have a lot to base a salary increase on. Then in 2 years you are confidently treating a full case load and mentoring others...for more or less the same pay. Yes, there may be some form of a bonus or raise, however it is nothing compared to your increase in knowledge or productivity. This is the weird world of medicine where you can get some promotions, but if you start chasing or asking for more money without working more hours you run into a lot of push back. Not only do we get this from within our profession because it isn’t “fair” that you get paid more, but fighting with HR departments or managers can be a nightmare.
So what would any normal person do with an advanced degree already seeing the ceiling approaching? I figured why not learn a new skill..not directly related to my current trajectory. Now I am not saying I am getting out of patient care, or that it isn’t fair what we get paid as physical therapists. I am just saying that I will not be one of the PTSs to complain about salary because in the end it was my choice to go into this field and if I want to chase money then I better not just keep doing the same thing I am doing and expect HR or upper management to just throw fistfuls of cash at me.
With the age of the internet there is now an endless supply of knowledge at our finger tips. If you are unhappy with you job then you can easily do something about it. Even if you aren’t necessarily unhappy but just like to have options....you can start investigating other avenues to keep doors open. When I hear people say they can’t do something or they can’t figure something out my instant response is “did you google it?” It is crazy how many of our problems can be solved by a couple key strokes. This is how I found myself curious as to how all of that works. I knew it was going to b e a long road and I am lucky enough to have a brother who has coding experience to help me through these initial headaches. That being said, along with any new skill it is going to take time to even know what you don’t know.
I started becoming interested in coding probably 3 years ago at this point but only recently during the COVID pandemic did I begin watching YouTube videos and practicing. It is amazing how much the world of coding can open your mind to possibilities! Nearly all of the mundane tasks performed each day can be eliminated through coding. I think what I like most about is the creativity involved. One must think outside of the box to come up with a solution and then be able to articulate a thought process through a specific syntax to get it to work. By far the most frustrating part of learning to cod is having to learn the language. Just like first starting any new skill, you see the end goal in your head and you know other people can make it look easy, but then you end up completely messing it up.
Coding actually has been very similar to learning physical therapy or bartending. At first you are doing simple things like learning how to do a manual muscle test or what the different types of liquor are. You are getting to watch masters at work who can diagnose with ease or mix up a perfect cocktail like it is an art form. Then there you are over in the corner putting your stethoscope on backwards, forgetting which side you put on the patient’s chest or breaking glasses after you made the wrong drink. Needless to say the learning curve can be frustrating and confusing
However, just like with any other skill the first time you do something right and on your own you feel amazing! The hardest part with any new skill is starting off and being terrible at it. Everyone knows this and this is why a lot of people stay in their comfort zone. Why make yourself uncomfortable when it probably won’t turn into anything anyways? Personally, I don’t think I will ever be a full-time coder or website developer; however, I enjoy the frustration and the lack of comfort in learning new things.
Why did I start coding? It honestly isn’t to chase a higher paying salary or a new career path. I enjoy being clinical and have a passion for process improvement/management. After some self-reflection, I think this is why I chose coding as a new skill over other things. Coding forces you to open your mind to the possibility that things can be one in a more efficient manner. I feel like this skill is one that serves people well as they get further along in their career. Unlike healthcare, in the coding field no one cares how long you have been doing your job, they care about whether or not you can complete the task at hand in the desired manner and will compensate you for it. That is why you see these young coders coming out making millions because the barrier to entry is knowledge based not time served.
Finally, I decided to pursue coding as a doctor for the same reason I started pursuing real estate and personal development. I see people in these fields making a large impact on other peoples’ lives and that has always been my end goal. As a physical therapist I treat thousands of patients a year (pre-covid). While that is already a great net of influence, I want to learn ways to impact many more. Learning coding has always been about legacy over currency for me. While someday maybe I will get paid to do something because of my new found skill, until then I will continue to stay curious and work towards new skills because I find comfort in being uncomfortable.
If you are reading this and are debating trying a new skill whether it be jiu jitsu, marathon training, or a new home project, take this as your push to give it a shot. Spend some time learning about it from YouTube or whatever your preferred avenue is, then go for it. There are many people that I have talked to in our nursing home about what regrets they have and there hasn’t been a single person tell me something they regretted doing...it is always the ideas they didn’t pursue, the conversations they didn’t have, or the trips they didn’t take. Don’t keep telling yourself tomorrow, because you never know what tomorrow is going to bring.
I am a new graduate DPT and am interested in personal growth and becoming a connector within my profession.