Hi everyone! I'm Allan Buccola, physical therapist and owner of Impetus Physical Therapy in Greensboro, NC. Today's post connects some of my reflections on where I seek value in my daily life and how it drives me to be a better physical therapist. I hope you enjoy!
In the early Summer of 2014, when the sunlight was still a light gold color, and the North Carolina heat had not quite made me sweat, unfamiliar sounds began to rumble from beneath the hood of my '99 Saturn SL2. After a hopeful visit with my mechanic, a poor diagnosis was made, essentially leaving me with a tough ultimatum: replace a major component for over $1500 dollars, or start looking for a new vehicle.
The part needed for the fix would almost certainly be a used part from a high mileage engine since Saturn no longer existed, so naturally, I began car shopping. The wife and I looked around for several days, at which point we stumbled upon a great deal on a used vehicle from a reputable dealership. We jumped before opportunity was lost, and before we knew it, we were readily equipped with a bigger vehicle with enough room in the back seat that the boys couldn't actually hit each other in the face anymore.
The vehicle was received in great condition, but the road performance immediately led to some mild concerns that sent me back to the dealership several times. A fantastic 90 day warranty kept my anxieties at bay, but with no real solutions after the 2nd attempt to resolve these issues, I began to develop some impatience.
Feeling bad, I called in a favor from my mechanic to take a look at the vehicle. I explained the situation to him, and although perplexed by such reports regarding a dealership he thought highly of, he agreed to give it a quick once over.
I hadn't nearly exited my vehicle when from 40 feet away, a look on his face revealed that my mechanic, Jack, had already noticed things askew. Within 7 minutes of some chit-chat and investigation, Jack had already pointed out my busted water pump, a loose nut on my Left front suspension, a bent heat shield, and excessive camber on my front alignment. I returned to the dealer ship with a checklist, and everything was fixed within 36 hours. Jack's eye for detail and lightning fast diagnostics have recently made him a sort of hero to me, as I can easily relate the value of these skills to the work I do!
Can't Beat a Good Mechanic
The relationship with my mechanic Jack goes back almost 15 years. When I got my first college job as a barista, I was serving him Caffe Americanos and various eats almost every Friday night. I'd been making coffee and small talk with him for almost 7 years before I happened to inquire as to his line of work, and wouldn't you know it that I was looking for a reliable mechanic at that time.
Jack has been no less than an asset over the years. When I have car trouble, I call and talk to him personally, no 'middle-man.' When he's found the problem, he walks me into the shop, beneath the lift, and gives me a play-by-play of the situation, taking the time to explain every little detail of the issue at hand. Before I started working with Jack, my knowledge of vehicles was nil. Now, after hours of conversation over the years, I find my self explaining things to my 6 year old son that completely take me by surprise.
And this is where I get my oil changed. I could take my car anywhere for this basic service, but I want Jack to lay eyes on my vehicle, because there is no doubt in my mid that he is as concerned with the function of my vehicle as I am. I chose to return to someone that I can trust will give me great information, take time to talk with me, and give me some options, knowing that a surprise auto repair bill for anyone can be a swift left uppercut.
That pretty much describes my ideal medical care as well. I can't get nearly this level of great service, time, education, or kinship with any physician in town. This likely explains why my deductible feels so much more a burden than the $200 I might have to pay Jack.
High Value in Healthcare and Wellness
Today, I was reflecting on how, just last week, yet again, my car issue of multiple weeks was alleviated by my buddy taking a quick look and referring me to a shop that specialized in the specific repair that was needed. Immediately it dawned on me that this is the reason I started my own practice.
I appreciate that I can get in touch with Jack personally at any time, and this is something that I can offer my patients because I run a small operation. I appreciate that I can take the time to dive into deep discussion with clients when educational opportunities arise. Just last week, twice did I go over by 30 minutes with a client because progress was being made. A 'teachable moment' had been reached. Those moments when my client and I are equally excited about what is happening: amazing!
I'm not rich and I'm not frivolous. I'm a bit of a cheapskate for sure, but when it comes to keeping my autos functioning, I'll spend what it takes, because the only thing more expensive than fixing a car twice a year is paying a monthly payment 12 times per year. The same goes for my health. I'd rather get regular maintenance when things seem a bit off, than wait until I'm hospitalized and paying that bill for 12 months.
If I can spend a little money on something than helps me keep running, and maintain my personal wellness, I won't think twice about the cost (to a certain degree.) What's most important is that I know where I can turn when I need to find that person. I know I will be that person for my clients in the future. All of those people who value trust and expertise over anything else...those who are more concerned with things being fixed right, rather than simply a reduction of the symptoms associated with the problems.
I started my own clinic less than a month ago, and of course things are still a bit slow. This was part of the plan. I don’t feel stressed though, or worried. I am filled to the brim with gratitude and excitement. When I take time to think about the level of commitment, time, and expertise I can now offer people, or when I reflect on all of the services that I can provide that so many others cannot, there is scant room for anything but gratitude.
There are PTs just down the road that will help dozens of people rehab from acute sports injuries, nothing out of the ordinary in my field, but when I think about the injury prevention programs I'm developing, and all of the injuries...pain, suffering, missed opportunities, that I will be helping to prevent...wow! Absolutely no regrets! There are clinics that will stop seeing patients once their benefits have run out, even though they are still making progress. I won't ever have to do that.
I know that over time, word of mouth is the best way to connect with a great clinician in any field. I'm willing to be patient and remember to have faith. After all, Jack never has any shortage of cars to fix or transmissions to rebuild.
There's a serious firewall in healthcare today, between the clinician and the patient. I'm here to tear down that firewall...or hack it? Eventually, clients whose top priorities are getting better faster and communicating well with someone that they can trust, will find their way to my door. And where we go from there, the sky is the limit.