Journeys in Physical Therapy: Transforming Lives and Overcoming Challenges

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From advocating for pelvic health to creative approaches in pediatric care, Jessica Reale and Chanha Hwang’s experiences illuminate this profession's diverse and impactful realm. Keep reading to discover more!

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In healthcare, few professions, like physical therapy, have the transformative power to change lives. It's a field where dedicated professionals work tirelessly to help individuals regain their independence, conquer pain, and rediscover their joy in movement. Today, we bring you the inspiring journeys of two remarkable physical therapists whose unwavering commitment to their patients and the field has left an indelible mark. Let’s get to know them!

The Advocates of Physical Therapy

Jessica Reale, with 12 years of experience as a physical therapist, has a remarkable background in transforming lives through pelvic health physical therapy. Specializing in addressing sensitive and life-impacting issues like bladder leakage and painful sex, Jessica is a passionate advocate for patients seeking solace from often silent struggles. Her dedication extends beyond patient care, as she's committed to fostering a positive and caring work environment at her practice.

Conversely, Chanha Hwang didn't initially set out to become a physical therapist, but he found his true passion through this profession. Combining his engineering background with physical therapy, he uses his creativity to enhance mobility. As a pediatric physical therapist, Chanha is dedicated to helping children reach their mobility goals and believes physical therapy offers limitless potential.

Before we delve into their incredible stories, let's take a moment to understand physical therapy.

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a medical treatment that aims to improve your ability to move, such as standing and walking. It's beneficial when you experience pain or difficulty moving due to an injury or health condition. For instance, if you feel pain in your hips when you stand or sit, a physical therapist can create a plan to help you move without experiencing any pain.

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Questions and answers

Physical therapists, or PTs, can fix current problems and prevent future ones by providing unique treatments, exercises, and education on how to move better and stronger. Through their testimonies, you can gain valuable information on becoming a physical therapist and learn from the experts.

  • How did you get into the field?

Jessica: “I always knew I wanted to help people. I loved science, and I was fascinated with the human body. As a teen, my father went through an experience with chronic lower back pain, which limited his ability to exercise- particularly running- which had previously been such a passion of his! I watched a physical therapist transform his life. He returned to running and ran alongside me while I trained for cross country and track in high school! This, along with other experiences, showed me the fantastic work that physical therapists do and the differences they can make for others! I started studying Kinesiology in college, and I just never looked back! I got my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Duke University, and I've been in the field ever since!”

**Chanha: “**Physical therapy was not my first career choice. I wanted to be an engineer. I only became interested in physical therapy in my second year of college when my close friend studying to get into a medical school asked me to volunteer at a local hospital with him so he wouldn’t get too bored doing his work. We were both assigned as volunteers to transfer patients from the patient’s room to the therapy room. This is how I had my first hands-on experience with physical therapy.

Engineering and physical therapy have lots of similarities. Both careers rely on the provider's creativity to help improve the function of a person or machine. As a pediatric physical therapist, I think of new ways to improve the child’s mobility skills.”

  1. What do you like and dislike most about the job?

**Jessica: *“*Helping patients overcome life-impacting conditions and regain joy in life is the most fulfilling aspect! I specialize in pelvic health, so I work with people dealing with problems like bladder leakage, constipation, and painful sex. These problems significantly impact and are often very private, leading to people suffering alone and in silence for many years. When people can finally get help-- resume exercise without leaking, stop having to think about their bowel movements all the time, and restore enjoyable sexual intimacy with their partner-- it is so gratifying as a health care professional!

One of the biggest challenges in the profession is the declining health insurance reimbursements for physical therapy. The reality is that health insurance companies pay less for physical therapy now than they did 15 years ago. Unfortunately, inflation continues to rise, and all other costs go up, leading to big challenges. This has contributed to more prominent companies trying to have clinicians see as many patients as possible (sometimes 3-4 at a time, or more!) to increase income. This type of scenario can lead to exhausted and burnt-out clinicians who are struggling to provide the type of care they deeply desire to provide. For myself, I knew this model was not for me. This is part of my decision to open my practice and not partner with insurance companies. Doing this has allowed me to build a practice that is genuinely focused on providing the best care for patients and providing a positive workplace for clinicians.”

**Chanha: *“*The best part of being a physical therapist is the opportunity to work with people of all ages. You can be involved in acute care, skilled nursing facility, outpatient, pediatric, geriatric, athlete, etc. Currently, I am a pediatric physical therapist, and working with children has been such a meaningful experience.

One thing I dislike about being a physical therapist is the lack of opportunities to carry over my work to other professions. Physical therapy is similar to a one-way straight. Once you enter, there is very little room to deviate. Most often, a physical therapist will remain a physical therapist for the rest of their career unless they enter a different workforce.”

  1. What were some challenges you encountered when entering the field?

Jessica: “I entered the specialty of pelvic health physical therapy immediately upon graduation. While knowledge about pelvic floor disorders has vastly improved (skyrocketed, really!) in the past few years, at the time, many people were unfamiliar with my specialty and what we provided. I remember having some physicians say things like, I don't believe in pelvic physical therapy, even though we had growing peer-reviewed research showing the effectiveness of what we provided for patients. It can take time for medical practice to catch up with research, leading to those in this specialty needing to play a vital role in advocating for our patients to get the care they need. We've made so much progress in this area...but we still have room to go!”

**Chanha: *“*I am an Asian-American. In my class of 55 in my Doctor of Physical Therapy program, less than 10% were minorities. What surprised me the most is that my school stated they like having a diverse class. My peers once stated that “I was the one who was making our class diverse” as a joke. I struggled to relate to my colleagues, peers, and even my patients at first. This was a big adjustment I had to make when I first entered physical therapy.”

Discoveries and reflections

The journeys of Jessica Reale and Chanha Hwang in physical therapy emphasize that one's background and skills can be harnessed to make a meaningful impact. Physical therapy is not a one-size-fits-all profession, so let's remember these valuable learnings:

  • Embracing versatility in specialties: Jessica Reale and Chanha Hwang highlight the diversity of their field. Jessica specializes in pelvic health, while Chanha focuses on pediatric care. Both professionals demonstrate the versatility of physical therapy and the various avenues practitioners can explore.
  • Patient advocacy and persistence: Jessica's unwavering dedication towards pelvic health therapy and patient advocacy and Chanha's adaptability and resilience in the face of professional and cultural diversity are inspirational stories that highlight the triumph of the human spirit.
  • The transformative power of Physical Therapy: Both stories emphasize the significant influence that physical therapy can have on an individual's life. Physical therapists assist their patients in regaining their mobility, independence, and happiness in movement and addressing profoundly personal and life-changing issues. They play a crucial role in enhancing the quality of life for their patients.

If you wish to start your healthcare career, come and explore your options at Dreambound!

Alyssa Jane
Written by
Alyssa Jane

Alyssa Jane is part of the customer success team at Dreambound. She works with students, training providers, and employers, helping them have a smooth customer journey. She is also an ESL tutor and Licensed Psychometrician. She is fond of traveling, photography, and discovering new restaurants.

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