Nelson Marquez, PT, EdD, Physical Therapy Editor

Nelson Marquez, PT, EdD, Physical Therapy Editor

Aug. 11 marked my 25th year of living and working in the U.S., having arrived here to work as a contract physical therapist in 1989. In celebrating my 25th year, I decided to drive to Jacksonville, Fla., where most of my former roommates and best friends chose to establish themselves. I wanted to see them to rehash our humble beginnings in the field of physical therapy — when life seemed to be so simple and not as complicated.

Meeting with them was not a disappointment. Although our lives had changed, either due to family obligations or career moves, we still had some good laughs like the good old days. As we reminisced about the past, it became apparent to me that during our initiation to the field of PT, most of our questions at that time revolved around the following themes:

  1. What can I become in the field of PT? An ortho specialist? A neuro specialist?
  2. What would it take for me to move up in my career as a physical therapist?
  3. Will I be successful and last long in the profession?

Perhaps, these are the same questions being mulled by those who are new in the field of PT. After having found the answers to the questions above, the challenge for me now is to determine what my next questions might be.

As I ponder on the next 25 more years of my career in PT, I picked up a magazine that featured Van Phillips, the man who developed the very first C-shaped prosthesis, the “Cheetah” blade. The article described how he came about with the idea, which all began with a question: Why can’t they make a better foot? This ‘why’ question eventually led to ‘what if’ questions, which in turn led to ‘how.’

This article provided me the inspiration for my next possible question that can guide me for the next chapter in my career: Why can’t we?

This question gave me a new perspective in understanding and appreciating the many innovations that surround me. To name a few:

  • Windshield wipers that can be controlled from inside a vehicle: Invented in 1903, Mary Anderson asked the question: “Why can’t windshields be cleared without opening the window?”
  • Gatorade: Dwayne Douglas searched for an answer to his question: “Why are the players losing so much weight during games?”
  • Microwave oven: Percy Spencer observed that a chocolate bar in his pocket had melted while he stood next to an active magnetron tube and asked “Why did my candy bar melt?”

Many times, we get bogged down and upset with legislations being passed that cuts through the very core of what we do as PTs. We lobby hard to either gain or regain what is being threatened to be taken away from us. To some extent, it becomes a “we” against “them” relationship, whether it is with legislators or insurance providers. Which makes me wonder … what if we sit around the table with these folks and instead of arguing and highlighting to them our values as health providers that seem to fall on deaf ears, we ask them the question: “Why can’t we…” followed by premises of our proposed solution strategies? Will things be different?

I do not have the answer but I believe it is worth trying. Hopefully, along the way, innovative solution strategies can be formulated to solve some of the issues that we face in the field. If they can create legislations or guidelines that can curtail our ability to practice the way that we envision, why can’t we think of other strategies to reverse these decisions beyond just touting our value as professionals and what we can offer?

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