PT and PT Assistant: How to Handle Conflict at Work

PT and PT Assistant: How to Handle Conflict at Work

Does the therapist or PT assistant at work constantly find a problem in you or your ideas? Do you struggle to unite as a team? Discover how to handle conflict at work if you’re a PT or PTA.

Healthcare is a tough industry. Being a therapist or PT assistant is even tougher! You are constantly being challenged by patients and their families for active participation. Your manager looks at you to complete your pending paperwork. The other team members might be pushing a patient for discharge. And you have a team member (PTA or PT) who gives you hard time for your plan of care, your techniques, or any small thing that he or she can talk about… Yes, I am talking about that therapist or PT assistant who constantly finds a problem in you or your ideas.

How to Handle Conflict in Rehab

When we work in rehab, it is important to have a good relationship with our coworkers. Granted, we cannot be friends with everyone. However, we need to be able to get along with each other. We need to have a good enough relationship that we can openly communicate with each other regarding patient care. Having a bitter relationship with your coworkers will result in you dreading to go to work or maybe even looking for other available options. But the truth is, no matter where you go you are going to encounter personality conflicts, and changing your job or ignoring the problem is NOT a viable solution. Instead, learn how to handle conflict at work and deal with differing personalities. The argument here is not who is right or wrong. Rather, it is how to survive together as a team.

1. Handle Work Conflicts by Communicating

This is key. Many difficult problems are solved with communication. And, the most important aspect of communicating is watching your tone. Remember, it is not what you say but how you say it that matters. Are you a PT struggling with a PTA? If you think your PT assistant is either avoiding you or giving you a hard time, break the ice and start communicating. For example, ask your PTA about a treatment session with a patient. Explain to him or her that you are worried or concerned about the patient because of so and so (maybe the patient’s medical condition, the family dynamic, etc.). This little initiation may make your PTA feel comfortable or confident enough to open up dialogue between the two of you. This is a critical first step.

Are you a PTA and your PT shrugs you off?

Do you work with a puffed-up PT? Don’t avoid the situation. Instead, try to have a conversation with him or her about it. Be respectful and pleasant. No one will want to ignore a good conversation delivered with a smile. This will help you develop a rapport with your colleague. By any means, this doesn’t suggest that one conversation will solve all your problems at work. However, this can act as a starting point. Be sure that you have this discussion privately. If you are going to “share information” in front of patients or other coworkers, it is NOT going to improve your relationship with your PT at any cost.

2. Respect Varying Personality Types

The reality is that different personality types cause people to clash. People get mad, upset, take it personally, and there goes the balanced relationship! Everyone is different. Each individual’s upbringing, culture, family backgrounds, thought processes, beliefs, education, and likes/dislikes are unique. After all, this is what makes us human beings. So, we have to learn to respect each other’s individuality. That one annoying thing that pushes your button, may just be a normal nature of your coworker. You need to remind yourself to be mature. You are at your place of employment to work – not to make best friends. Keeping this in mind will help you manage the particular behavior without letting it get to you. You can also try one or more stress management techniques to help you cope with differing personalities. Last, there is a trick that almost always works for angry or annoying behaviors. The next time you see your coworker exhibit the behavior, ask the person the meaning of or reason for it. Sometimes, people are just unaware of something that they are doing. But, you might hear a very interesting story that will actually make you laugh and lighten up. You will be surprised what different beliefs and cultures hold to and follow. And, you just might learn something that helps you have a deeper respect for the PT or PT assistant!

3. Remember that You Are Equal and Part of Team

We need to remember that even though we are called “PT” and “PTA”, we are part of one team. Yes, there is a difference in both degrees. They have different eligibilities to work. But, that does not make one person more important than the other. If you start respecting each other for what you can do (regardless of titles), you will eliminate a lot of conflicts. Remind yourself of the old adage, “Those who make the best leaders are those who serve others.”

4. Brainstorm Together

Brainstorming is a scientifically-proven team building technique. Sharing ideas and thoughts creates a bond between people to promulgate their experiences, good or bad. Brainstorming also helps people think outside of the box and stimulates creativity. This is especially important in the rehab field. Furthermore, when people start sharing their ideas, they tend to forget those small, non-essential nagging issues they felt at one point with each another. This is why you will see great managers or directors asking open-ended questions and encouraging talks in their meetings. We all can learn from each other’s experiences and improve!

5. Be Patient-Centered

This is a must. While you are at work, everything you do should be patient-centered. If you feel the patient care or service is in jeopardy, it is your responsibility to notify your supervisor. Contradictory, if you have a difficult or medically-complex patient, don't hesitate to ask for help. It may be that senior therapist in the team has great knowledge to impart to you, and you are missing out because of your own personal grudges. Put your issues aside and take the first step to communicate with the PT or PT assistant regarding ideas for treatment approach. You are going to get much more in return if it improves your therapy skills and makes you a better therapist to your patient.
This article was written by Bijal Shah, Clinical Educator

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