Physical therapists are devoted to improving their patients’ quality of life, which means that professionals trained to succeed in their physical therapy jobs must possess the ability to empathize and sympathize; basically, to connect with patients on an emotional level. Since physical therapist jobs are fun and hands on, the sheer nature of the job—how it lends itself to social discussions as you work one-on-one with patients—puts you more than half way there when it comes to establishing rapport.
The good news is you don’t have to perfect your stand-up routine to utilize humor with patients. We have tips for jumping on the Humor-in Hospitals band wagon (cart) even if you’re missing the actual humor cart some medical facilities are using. Click here for advice on how to create a hospital humor cart of your own.
Cart or no cart, physical therapy jokes don’t have to be jokes at all; they can be funny stories or even observations about what’s on TV—so long as you show your patients you share a mutual interest, hobby, or have something small in common, the potential for laughter is there—as well as the invaluable assurance that patients look forward to seeing you when you’re on call.
Why would physical therapy jokes or attempts at physical therapist/patient warmth qualify as a valuable career resource?
Because it’s the responsibility of physical therapists to provide pain management that lessons the patient’s discomfort. Laughter won’t alleviate pain, but it will provide the temporary benefit of distraction while physical therapists get pain management under control.
It’s true that the clinical skills and knowledge you learned in physical therapy schools are the biggest piece of the puzzle in improving patient mobility and independent function, but the ability to create warmth in doctor/patient rapport is important too; having realized this, more and more hospitals are filling humor and “ha-ha carts” with magazines, funny props—even water pistols.
The medical community has yet to produce definitive research that laughter is literally the best medicine, but studies—like one conducted by the University of Maryland—did discover laughter has some positive physiological benefits. A good long laugh is equivalent to a couple minutes of cardiovascular exercise. Our pulse and blood pressure go up, we stretch muscles throughout our bodies and we breathe faster—sending more oxygen to our tissues. So bring on the funny jokes and funny stories in your physical therapy jobs!
The bottom line? Laughter is harmless. Physical therapists should hone their sense of humor, beef up their funny stories and funny jokes repertoire and make brightening a patient’s day part of their everyday work detail. When a patient smiles, it’s proof that their quality of life—what physical therapists help give back—is returning!
Footnote: Interested in learning more from experts on how to use humor for your personal and/or career development? Click on the Humor Project to find pubic speaking events, featuring topics like humor in chronic illness, team building with humor, and the mirthful approach to excellence on the job. There’s no reason why the effort couldn’t translate into excellence in your physical therapy jobs too!