5 Tips for Transitioning from Student to Therapist

Image of Jefferson MixellJefferson Mixell

By Jefferson Mixell, BS, RRT

Transitioning from student to therapist can be a challenging task at an important time in your career. Here are some tips to help ease the change and set you up for success in your first year.

  1. Earn your credentials immediately! Your credentialing exams and your license are your keys to the profession. They are low-hanging fruit on the tree of career accomplishments and you should get them right away. Any delay in accomplishing these first goals could send the wrong message about your work ethic and eagerness to enter the field.
  2. Make connections! The best way to learn how to become a great therapist is to find some to emulate. This starts in school and will initially be invaluable in helping you find a position at the institution that is right for you. Connections don’t need to be formal, but they should be meaningful. Find people who are doing or have done something that you’d like to do. Their experience and guidance are the shoulders you’ll stand on to achieve your own goals.
  3. Professionalism is key and starts from day one. Being a professional means a lot more than just showing up for work in your scrubs with a stethoscope, although that is a good place to start! First and foremost, it means being a valuable member of your professional society. Even if you only ask a question on AARConnect, your input is appreciated. These forums add value to the profession and get your name out to others in the field.
  4. Be open to continuing to learn new things — lots of new things! In addition to all of the patient assessment tools you’ve learned in school, you’ll now need to learn everything that any new employee will have to learn: everything from the basic geography of the hospital to unique policies and protocols to your hospital’s documentation software. You don’t need to be a perfect therapist in your first year, but you should be actively soliciting feedback and seeking avenues to improve your skills.
  5. Maintain your eagerness and enthusiasm! The main advantage you bring to this field is this excitement and your fresh set of eyes. Find avenues to translate that excitement and persistence into positive change for your workplace or the profession as a whole. Lead a volunteer effort to screen patients in your community, reevaluate a policy within your department, or join a committee sponsored by your state professional society. There are endless opportunities for those with the willingness to seek them out and the passion to do them well.

Jefferson Mixell is a staff development specialist at Christiana Care Health System in Newark, DE. He graduated from Millersville University of Pennsylvania in 2013.

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