Professional Development – What Are Your Plans?

Not all therapists realize that professional development is an individual responsibility. Only you know what you aspire to be and what goals you have set for yourself.

The first step is to conduct a self-assessment of your clinical skills, attitudes and professional practice, ethics and overall job duties.

Create your professional development plan based upon both this assessment and your professional goals. Do you aspire to be a rehab director? To specialize in a certain treatment or program? To educate clinical students during their professional rotations? It’s important to pursue continuing education opportunities that encompass both your skills and these goals. Be aware of your personal strengths, areas needed for growth, opportunities and time frames to achieve your objectives.

Seek mentors to hold you accountable and to assist you in your growth areas and to reach your goals. Mentors can be from your other rehabilitation disciplines or even work for other employers or facilities. Although I’m an OT, my first mentor was a PT that I worked with in a rural skilled nursing facility. This PT demonstrated many professional behaviors that I learned from and emulated. The big one was how to communicate with and be respected by nurses, doctors and families. Over the years, my mentors have included other OTs, PTs, SLPs, administrators and educators.

Become involved in your state and national association. This involvement can help you to find a mentor, advocate for your profession, develop leadership skills and develop professionally. Your involvement means more than just paying dues but also becoming an active and contributing member to the association. This can be as an officer, committee member or advocate of legislative issues affecting your practice.

Review and update your plan regularly. Why? Because our goals shift, people and situations change, circumstances present new challenges and opportunities. To grow as a professional, you have to be both flexible and adaptable. When I entered the therapy field, I never imagined or desired to become a manager. But quickly I learned that my interests and strengths were in management, and I pursued the avenue.

Be prepared for the challenges associated with your professional development. We live in a world with busy lives and schedules. But know that the process does not have to be unmanageable. There are countless ways to promote individual development. The secret is to take the initiative to put it in writing and begin investing in it! Once you take that first step, you will begin moving and growing in ways you never knew possible.

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