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Can You Specialize in Two Different Areas?

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Have you thought about specializing in two different things, like sports and neonatal physical therapy?

You certainly can, but keep in mind there are benefits of being more specific with your focus.

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#AskMikeReinold Episode 265: Can You Specialize in Two Different Areas?

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Show Notes


Transcript

Student:
So Alexis from Ohio asks, can you specialize in two different fields? For example, I want to do sports physical therapy, but I’m also interested in neonatal physical therapy. Would I be able to do both, and how?

Mike Reinold:
Awesome love that question, Alexis. You know, what I really liked about the question was just like how dramatically different the two were. I think that’s what drew me to that, which I thought was really cool. Trust me, Alexis. I get it. I have this internal conversation with myself all the time that we’re using all of our brain and all our resources and all these things to help, like people throw balls hard. You know what I mean? It’s a really weird thing that we’re using all our brain power for instead of trying to create a better world for humanity. But anyway, I totally get what you’re thinking. So, all right. Who wants to start this one off? What do we think with Alexis having two different specialties in two completely different specialties? Do you think she can pull it off? Who wants to start? Lisa, what do you got?

Lisa Russell:
I mean, I’ve semi-done this. So it was funny actually, my mom dumped a bunch of papers from her house on me recently. And one of them was my job application materials from when I was right out of school and my mission statement or whatever at the top of my resume was like, “Hi, I’m a new grad PT, and I’m interested in sports performance and pediatrics.” And essentially just depended on which job I got first and where I started.

Lisa Russell:
But I don’t know. I mean, to me, I feel like you can do both. It’s just a matter of how quickly you want to become really good at something. Because you can’t become as good at either of them as quickly as you would, if you picked one. And so it’s just a matter of, are you willing to have the patience to kind of gradually get better at both? Or do you want to really concentrate on one thing and get really good, really fast? Because you can’t specialize in multiple things and be really good at them within a couple of years of, within even our first five years of working without kind of picking a little bit more between the two, and even just, what? That means you’re going to be balancing two part-time jobs [crosstalk 00:04:06].

Mike Reinold:
Yeah, because you got to get some experience with those specialties too. It’s not just brain power. It’s a little bit of that. That makes sense.

Lisa Russell:
I mean that’s where per diem work or whatever to keep your feet in both doors, if you don’t know where you want to end up ultimately get you exposure. So then maybe you figure out which one gives you… Makes you happier.

Mike Reinold:
Right? That’s a good point. And in a good reason to maybe dip your toe in multiple specialties initially is you got to figure out which one that maybe you jive with a little bit more, that you’re a little bit more passionate about and I bet you that will happen. And I bet you something will push you over the ledge towards one of those, Alexis. And then you’ll have one specialty, which we leisure. But what else? I mean, a lot of us have like multiple specialties, but I think they’re super related, right? Dave does sports, physical therapy, but he’s a specialist in gymnasts. I mean, to me, those are complimentary, right?. I don’t know, anybody else have any thoughts for Alexis? Yeah, what’s up Dave?

Dave Tilley:
I worked in a place in my clinical that my CI had a split between inpatient and outpatient because the hospital had both. She would do three days per week of inpatient care and she would rotate through whatever the floors were. And then Tuesday, Thursday, she would just do straight up outpatient PT that was connected to the hospital because obviously people move down from the floor and had to go rehab on their way out. But also people just walked in the door and just did normal, low back pain. So I feel like some places maybe in more of a hospital network might allow you to split your time between both, if you can find a place like that.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah. That’s a good point too. Especially neonatal. I mean, if she’s a hospital-based that might be a good way to do it. I like it. What do you think Dan?

Dan Pope:
I’m going to come out here and just be negative.

Mike Reinold:
I love it.

Dan Pope:
Well, all good points. I think you certainly can specialize in multiple things. I’ve definitely tried to do this over the course of time. And over the time, I’ve also funneled down into one specialty for the most part, but I still kind of dabble in a bunch of different things. And what I will say is that you can’t be the best at everything and the more different topics you try to juggle, the worse. I think you get it every other topic. So just really keep that in mind. And one of the things that I’ve really changed over the course of time… I actually did really want to do that because I love learning a broad range of stuff… is I’ve really zoned in because that makes me a little bit better and it helps my patients more. So yeah, you certainly can, but just keep in mind that there’s pros and cons of each of those.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah, what’s up, Lisa?

Lisa Russell:
Yeah. I mean, just to that point because I have dabbled across a couple of more things throughout my career, considering how many years I’ve been a PT, I feel like I’m in catch-up mode, because I didn’t find my way to sort of what I was most passionate about until a little bit later on. And now to be where I want to be, it’s like catch up mode rather than having kind of ended up there in the beginning. But not that you can’t do it right eventually, but from Dan says, you don’t end up as good as peers might be who’ve kind of focused in on one thing as quickly.

Lisa Russell:
Lisa, correct me if I’m wrong though, isn’t it liberating now, though, now that you’ve narrowed down and you can focus on one thing?

Lisa Russell:
Yeah, it’s way more fun to be learning everything that I want to because I want to and to be helping the athletes and the people that I want to. And it’s not that all of my other prior experiences don’t help me generally be better at things. My experience in pediatrics gave me incredible fundamentals for understanding movement. You don’t get much better understanding of movement than literally teaching a kid how to go through their fundamental stages. So it’s not that it doesn’t apply, but there’s so many more things to learn always. And, it’s just hard to be as, … I mean, the amount of knowledge Dan has for his very specific things, blows my mind every time he talks. So, to be able to get to that point and have spread yourself out so thin over a couple of things for a lot of years, you just can’t get there as quickly, so.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah. That makes sense. What do you think, Mike?

Mike Scaduto:
Yeah, I would say for more specific for Alexis, I think PT school prepares you to be a very broad-based clinician and then people tend to specialize as they get out into the field. I think from a patient perspective, patients will seek you out because of your expertise, not necessarily because of your specialty. And I think that’s a distinction in my mind, you can specialize in something and not necessarily have expertise in that matter. So from a patient perspective, it may be difficult, especially in something like neonatal physical therapy where the stakes could be potentially a little bit higher, I think patients will seek out experts in that field.

Mike Scaduto:
And I think if you’re trying to dabble in both fields, I think maybe you’re leaving a little bit of expertise on the table and you may not be giving the patient the best experience. I definitely think you could provide value to the person. You could probably do a good job, but I think if you really want to grow your career and become an expert in the field and have patients seek you out for your services, I think it’s going to be really difficult to juggle those two fields.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah. I love it. Dan, what do you think?

Dan Pope:
I was going to double down on that. Patients love it when they’re in front of someone that really understands what they love. You’re talking the same language and you know the same people and you’re in the same network. That’s just phenomenal for therapeutic alliance, whatever we call it. Patients do love that.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah, I agree. And it’s a quicker, easier bond, right? You can tell when the person in front of you is excited to talk to you about something, you can tell. What’s up, Diwesh?

Lenny Macrina:
Lisa, I was going to say… Lisa, you may know this, but is neonatal physical therapy in a hospital where you’re just kind of restricted to an order from a doctor and you are just on a floor and it’s not like you are in a community and people seek you out and you get specialized and people are finding you and it’s cash-based and you really treat your niche like we’ve kind of done. So you’re interested in a hospital getting orders from physicians.

Lisa Russell:
Yeah, I mean, that’s where it’s totally different. It’s more like an inpatient acute, but you’re working with kids- [crosstalk 00:10:34].

Mike Reinold:
Yeah, like NICO almost.

Lisa Russell:
And it’s super, super, super important, but yeah. I mean, it’s true, and that’s where, from what I kind of said in the beginning of, I don’t know, maybe you have a per diem job of one and a full-time job of another, so you can at least experience both and see which one you’re actually passionate about because a passionate neonate physical therapist, is oh my God, is that important. But maybe that schedule or the restrictions that hospital-based staff put on you or maybe you just don’t jibe with that, and then you want to be more in those performance end where it’s a little bit more open, but meeting those… A PT who thrives in a hospital setting, that’s a really important person. So, if you’re really starting out and trying to find your spot, a per diem weekend job where you do one instead of the other, you can figure it out for yourself. But yeah.

Lenny Macrina:
That’s what I was trying to say you, you said it, I was trying to say that about just being restricted by red tape of hospitals and all that stuff could be a point of negative, but I… Definitely a neonatal PT is critical and parents need to feel that bond with somebody who thinks… Who is an expert. Yeah.

Mike Reinold:
What do you think Diwesh?

Diwesh Poudyal:
Yeah, no, I really like what Mike Scaduto said about the expertise in a certain area, and I think you see this in strength conditioning quite a bit. You’ll have those strength coaches that are going to be strength coaches, and let’s say like nutrition coaches. Well, you can be a pretty good nutrition coach, I’m sure as a strength and conditioning coach, but if you’re kind of dividing up your time and your level of gaining more expertise, then you’re probably going to be doing a little bit less of a good job as strength coach. It’s not to say that you can’t be pretty good at both, but for me, I’d rather really double down on the strength conditioning stuff that I’m learning ,get better at that, have my nutrition background so I can help someone that needs a little bit of guidance.

Diwesh Poudyal:
Because that’s always something that’s going to be a little bit helpful for the people that’s in front of me. But if someone needs a ton of help and they need true nutrition guidance, I’d rather have someone who is a true expert in sports nutrition. And to refer out to that, because one, that takes less of my time and it doesn’t really play to my strengths and my expertise as well as someone who’s a true, true expert in the field. So I think it is important to kind of distinguish. And I think Mike said it perfectly just distinguish between specializing and having expertise in the matter.

Mike Reinold:
I think that’s great. And I think the only thing I would add just to kind of wrap it up was that Alexis, it’s cool you’re thinking this and, and… I think like Lisa kind of mentioned, you’ll probably figure it out, because you’re going to realize it’s going to take a little bit longer to get as going as you want.

Mike Reinold:
But I will say this like to kind of harp on this last thing, it is liberating and it is super awesome to be able to focus on one thing that you’re really, really passionate about. It’s awesome for you, and you’re going to see how much more fun you’re going to have when you can put all your mental energy towards one thing. And most people that I see that are successful in this field are people that… They’re thinking, living, breathing, everything on this one kind of thing all the time, and that’s what makes them special. And that’s what makes them unique and probably better at that. So that’s the only thing I would say is that the more specialties you have, the more you have in your head, and sometimes it’s hard to juggle some of that. It’s pretty liberating for your quality of life to focus on one thing. So kind of keep that in mind as well.

Mike Reinold:
So, awesome. All right, great question, Alexis. I love career advice, stuff like that. That was awesome. Every time I say your name, I hear buzzes throughout my house that my Amazon Echos are turning on, but, sorry… But thank you for your question. If you have questions like that, head to mikereinold.com and click on that podcast link, be sure to go to iTunes, Spotify, rate, review us, and we will see you on the next episode.

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