"Enrollment" in Physical Therapy | Modern Manual Therapy Blog

"Enrollment" in Physical Therapy

Enrollment is when you are eagerly present-- Seth Godin 

On a recent Tim Ferriss Show podcast, Seth Godin answered questions from the audience. While responding to one such question on education, he introduced a concept that resonated with me and I found it very applicable to physical therapy. Seth examined the concept of Enrollment; not the type of enrollment where we sign up for required college courses, but rather what we participate in when we choose to do something that we WANT to do. 

For the full Tim Ferris Show podcast episode, click below or check it out on iTunes: 

Seth used the example of a consultant working with a client (substitute PT working with a patient), and the client says, "yes, we want to move forward, show us how," as opposed to needing to be pushed or cajoled. Is the above reaction similar to how your patients feel after the initial evaluation or treatment session? If not, what can be done to elicit a more positive response? Are you adequately addressing your patients' wants and needs? Have you effectively uncovered their higher objective? 

Most people come to physical therapy because of pain. However, simply addressing pain is often only the most superficial objective. WHY is having back pain an issue for your patient? Or even better, we could ask, "what would it mean for you to NOT have this pain right now?" This approach may improve our ability to get at our customer's emotional core and can help lead them to enjoy the true benefits of physical therapy. They hopefully choose to come see us, rather than feel like they have to come see us. 

From a different angle, are they even the right customer for your services? "I'm here because my doctor told me to come" is just one example we frequently hear that sounds like the opposite of enrollment. It is the sound of someone who likely will need some extra convincing and motivation, Sometimes, it's just a matter figuring out how to click the right switches, as discussed above. to secure their buy-in. But many times, the effort may be to no avail. Are we perhaps better off working to attract the patients who already WANT what we offer as opposed to having to persuade them? 

Are you there to get a piece of paper or are you there to level up?

Patients, however, aren't the only ones who need to address the concept of enrollment. We also need to address it within ourselves. The topic brought to mind a situation several years ago with a PT I knew who passed up a good education opportunity because they weren't going to get CEUs for it. Obviously, we need CEUs for licensure, but ultimately, most of us are in this profession because we enjoy it, want to learn, and want to better help the people who come through our doors. With the variety of continuing education opportunities available to physical therapists, there should never be a feeling of "having" to go to a course as opposed to being able to CHOOSE to go. 

Seth Godin also discussed a well-known bar-prep course held annually in NYC. The instructor would announce "not for your notes" even while continuing to talk out loud to the class, but the class would fall into their own private discussions until the instructor shouted "for your notes!" The students clearly were not there to learn anything, as opposed to just be able to pass the exam.  

Understandably, just as it is in PT school, if you just spent three tough years in law school, passing the exam is terribly important. However, for PTs, the board exam is the last exam you ever have to take. Any future exams are purely by your own choice. Hopefully, it's not just to get letters after your name, because frankly, only a small number of people actually care. Hopefully, it's because you want to learn and gain the knowledge to better help more people. 

If you're on Twitter and certainly if you're reading this, I'm likely preaching to the choir. But we all know people who like to take the easy way out and shy away when things get tough. Instead of disparaging them like we tend to do, especially if they're our team members, perhaps try to find a way to bring them up. As the saying goes, "a rising tide lifts all boats." The more PTs we have out there regularly striving to be better, the more we can help raise the bar on the standard of care in this country. 

As always, thanks for reading,


Interested in live cases where I apply this approach and integrate it with pain science, manual therapy, repeated motions, IASTM, with emphasis on patient education? Check out Modern Manual Therapy!

Keeping it Eclectic...


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