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After approximately 20 minutes spent sitting at the automobile shop one morning last week, Michael came in from the garage to confirm what I had expected: there was a large nail in the tire. I had not expected, however, that it could not be repaired. He brought me back (into the garage) to show me how the nail had punctured the sidewall of the tire and was irreparable, necessitating its replacement.

I give Michael a lot of credit though, because when I asked him if I needed to buy a pair so that I would always have a matching set on my drive-train, regardless of how the wheels were rotated throughout the year, he said

“Nah. I know that you hear that a lot, but you have three other good tires on the car right now. I have no reason to believe that you will have any difficulty with traction just because you replace one of them with a tire that is similar but not the same. Most mechanics would say ‘yes’, because that is the conventional wisdom and they get to make an extra hundred bucks off of you, but I don’t think that’s how I should do business. That is how a repair shop loses customers.”

Michael gets it. Working in a profession that is considered ethical by less than 28% of the population, it is imperative for him to work honestly and to make sure that everyone knows he is one of the “good guys”.

.    .    .    .

I had met him once at a local meeting. Another local physical therapist, he mentioned to me how he owns a very small practice with only two other clinicians. He has multiple certifications and (although their credentials are not as impressive) his employees have striven on for additional professional accolades beyond licensure as well. And while I may not always agree with their approach, I would still rather send him business when possible rather than a group of clinicians in the area who have worked for over 20 years without opening a book and only understand CPR as a life-saving maneuver in the event of an emergency.

Last week, I decided to stop in to see his humble and well-kept treatment facility to meet with him regarding a potential referral. There were three patients in a space that featured five treatment tables in addition to six or seven pieces of strengthening equipment. The three patients struck me as all being high school students or athletes. One was just sitting down to a treatment table, one was completing some straight leg raises, and the other was receiving passive stretching to what I imagine must have been intended to be his hamstrings. Not wanting to interrupt his “care” I took a business card, said that I would call back later to set up a time to speak with him, and left to go home.

When I returned home, I visited his website. I was disappointed to discover that, despite being an overall “good guy” (with deep roots in the village who advertises his desire to intertwine his services throughout the community in both profit and nonprofit ventures) he is advertising and selling prospective patients AYSTM, Anodyne and custom fit shoe inserts. Looking at his website, I could not help but be reminded of the auto mechanic, Michael, in the shop earlier that week.

I am a member of a profession who, in an effort to help any person in any way that they can, has lost its way. And while my hope is that we are currently perceived as an honest and well-meaning group of professionals, I fear that the result will be a degradation of our reputation and standing in the community. After all, there’s already a profession that has tried to garner its wages through pseudoscience under the guise of “helping people”; their perceived honesty and adherence to ethical standards, however, is only considered to be less than half that of physicians and nurses.

So, it seems that my profession is at a crossroads. Fortunately, the solution to our problems is easy: “Be like Mike”.

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