November 5, 2015

Profession ≠ Job

By Crystal Mendoza

By: Thomas Mork, SPT

What do you love about your profession? Is it seeing patients smile? Is it putting on your detective cap to figure out a disease? Or is it the sheer variety of the cases that you see every day? The fact is, if we go to work for one of these reasons, or one I haven’t mentioned, we are extremely fortunate; we are part of an exclusive club that enjoys our job. We are the ones that think about our patients as we make dinner, or research best practice for some light, nighttime reading. But our vocation comes with responsibility to ourselves and our colleagues. It is our duty to protect and advance our profession and further our knowledge for the good of ourselves, as well as our patient.

When I walked into class on the first day of PT school, I was expecting to get a job in three years. I knew that I liked working with people, showing others how to exercise, and I was a nerd about the musculoskeletal system. I liked to see the tabloids that read, “Physical Therapist Jobs to Grow by 60%!” But at the time, physical therapy was still just another job - just better than the car washing job I had in high school. It was one I knew I would enjoy, make a good living from, and have security in the job market. I had not yet realized the true meaning behind this profession.

I settled into my typical seat about halfway through the semester. Our professor wrote on the board, “Where Will You be in 10, 20, and 30 Years?” Not shockingly, I put down that at 54 I would be a physical therapist in Hawaii. My neighbor believed she would be a PT in Florida. As we went around the room describing our future plans, there was not one person who was not a PT in 30 years. We were all invested in this endeavor, more so than any car washing job we had in high school. No, this was more than a job. It was a profession. Teaching patients to exercise, encouraging them daily, and seeing them succeed were what I woke up for every day. Nothing could be more important than making sure this 30 year plan became a reality. I knew that I needed to do something to help achieve this goal. Thus, I became involved in our profession; I joined the American Physical Therapy Association.

That was two years ago. Today, I am in my final year of PT school and enjoying every minute of it. My involvement has matured, and I have since been elected Vice-President of the PT Student Assembly. Most importantly, I am still a member of the APTA. I am a member because I like seeing my patients smile, because I like showing a patient that they CAN walk, and because each day is different than the last. I am a member because my professional association is protecting the profession, so I can do these things and find joy in my work. They continue to fight for my rights in Washington. They fund and promote evidence based practice, and they provide innumerable opportunities for networking at national conferences. Thus, by supporting the APTA I am really supporting myself and my future.

I am not writing this out of some obligation to the American Physical Therapy Association. Nor am I writing this to try to win over other students and therapists over to join our cause. I truly just believe in what I do. Therefore, I will continually support physical therapy and stand behind the APTA mission statement. As another Mayo PT graduate once told me, “The wording of our mission and goals might change over time, but I will always support what the APTA stands for: moving the profession forward.” My goal is to always remember why I became a part of this profession and to play my part when supporting it. That is the responsibility that all of us hold within our respective healthcare professions, not just to our patients, but to ourselves.

Thomas Mork (back row, far right) as part of the 2015-2016 Student Assembly Board of Directors. (Credit to APTA)

Thomas Mork (back row, far right) as part of the 2015-2016 Student Assembly Board of Directors. (Credit to APTA)


Thomas Mork was born and raised in North Branch, MN. He graduated from St. Olaf College with a BA in Biology and is currently in the third and final year of the Doctor of Physical Therapy program in the Mayo School of Health Sciences. He also currently serves as the Physical Therapy Student Assembly Vice-President

Acknowledgement: My sincere appreciation to the Mayo School of Health Sciences for their formal education and in preparing me to be the best clinician and professional I can be.

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