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What is a Mentorship Program?

August 27, 2013

So, you’re a physical therapy student who just graduated. Congratulations! That’s a fantastic accomplishment, and you deserve a well-earned pat on the back.

Are you ready for what’s next? Of course you are!

Without making it sound too scary, your future decisions are going to shape the path of your career. Pick the right job and it could help you for years to come–pick the wrong one and you could be hampered. No pressure right?


What factors play a role in your next step? Money, authority, location? These are certainly all considerations, but can we let you in on a secret? It may not be what you want to hear, but it is the truth:

Even though you’ve just been through seven years of school, you have not yet begun to learn what it means to be a PT.

That sounds harsh, but ask any working PT and they’ll tell you it’s true. A new graduate has a lot to learn and will eventually learn from colleagues.

Wouldn’t it be great if the practice you choose had a program in place to teach you all the things you need to know in a way that is designed to make you really successful? Where you had people you could talk to and get advice about how to handle real-life situations?

Yes, and what we’re talking about here is a mentorship program.


What is a mentorship program?

After physical therapy school, recent graduates may be anxiously asking themselves: “What’s the next step?” Typically, residency is the first and most obvious answer for physical therapists fresh out of school. However, from seven years of school to a strict, credentialed program – like residency – is a giant leap. To ease new graduates into the physical therapy profession, mentorship programs are implemented as the middle ground. Mentorship is designed to fill in the gap between school and career, as the transition from school to real-world practice can be especially daunting.

The fundamental difference between mentorship and residency is: residency is formal program, whereas mentorship is a low-key experience. Through mentorship, peer-provided education and hands-on opportunities are tackled. New ideas are offered. Supervision, oversight, and direction are employed, and the participant has the opportunity to be challenged in their prospective field. PT’s just starting out should be mindful of the present, as the practice they choose will affect their career.  Mentors are effective in lending insight into the inexperienced PT’s potential practice. The selected mentor presents a 360 degree view of the physical therapy profession: dealing with the patients, filling out paperwork, networking and marketing, as well as completing financial statements and documents— a new PT gaining experience with these tasks are, essentially, being conditioned for their future.

Much like an apprenticeship, mentorship provides post-graduate learning beyond the books. Being an accomplished PT requires more than clinical knowledge, and mentorship lays out the building blocks for future success. Dating all the way back to the Middle Ages, apprenticeships were utilized to train upcoming protégés in their field, under the guidance of an employer. The employer’s knowledge was exchanged for an apprentice’s labor; thus, a successful career blossomed out of a thirst for knowledge and unrelenting drive.

Mentorship is a revolutionized form of apprenticeship: today’s protégés are not restricted to labor-for-knowledge compensation, and the benefits of undergoing mentorship are everlasting.


Why is mentorship important to my career?

Believe it or not – even after a grueling seven years of school, the learning process is not over. Continual learning is imperative in becoming an effectual PT. Can a physician treat a patient if the physician is not competent? A physician’s effectiveness and competence directly correlate — being a knowledgeable professional is absolutely essential to the physical therapy career. PT’s who have been mentored have an advantage: mentorship is designed to take a progressive approach to learning and application, and the desired outcome is a well-rounded physician.


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