October is National Physical Therapy Month. To celebrate, we are sharing the stories of our physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. Today’s entry is written by Keri Poffel who shares her journey and dedication to working as a physical therapist.
I began researching different careers in the late 80’s as I felt that I could do more and had taken my Associates Degree as a Veterinary Technician to the limits. I did not want a desk job that much I knew. I wanted to stay in the medical field, keep active and moving, and best of all I wanted to be able to utilize the problem solving skills that I had developed over the years as I like a good challenge. I had no previous experience, or knowledge, of what a Physical Therapist’s role entailed.
Physical Therapy as a career sounded interesting, checked all of the boxes. So I made an appointment with the Physical Therapist listed as an adviser for the pre-Physical Therapy program at Washington State University as I was working at the veterinary school at the time. I wish I could say that it was a positive interaction. I was cautioned that it was a very competitive field and difficult to be accepted into programs unless you had “a very good G.P.A.”. I had an Associates Degree. It wasn’t until 9 years later that I had an opportunity to enroll in school full time at Eastern Washington University in order to get my undergraduate degree, commuting 90 minutes a day to just get to school. My son started high school the same time I began my journey, I worked part time, and worked very hard to get the grades. I had only one shot when I applied to PT school at Eastern…and was accepted!
I then had to commute 124 miles a day as the PT program was in Spokane. I must admit, the driving, home responsibilities, and the studying was grueling, but so worth it. I have never regretted changing careers at an age when most people are thinking of winding down. I always knew that I wanted to work in a rural, undeserved area, and with geriatrics. I wanted to be an advocate, and provide services to a group of individuals that many times go unnoticed. So I became a Geriatric Clinical Specialist in 2008.
I have had the honor to work with so many amazing individuals. One woman who survived a concentration camp during WWII still carrying the physical and emotional scars. Another gentleman, frail and with significant kyphosis, regaled me in stories from his past as a sprinter as we walked down the halls with his FWW. He competed against Jesse Owens for a spot on the Olympic team. I love to hear their stories, of happiness and heartbreak. But the most memorable was having the opportunity to move my own mother to the facility that I work in order to oversee her care. My mom was a registered nurse. Most people say, “I used to be…” but not my mom, to the end, she stated “I am a nurse “. She was so proud of her profession. And you know what, I will probably be just like mom to the very end of my days and say “I am a Physical Therapist”!