Thirty years! That's a long time to be doing anything. For me, that's how long I have been doing Occupational Therapy in the specialty area of Industrial Rehab. I can tell you this - I wasted a lot of time through trial and error. In the 80's, there were very few experts and Industrial Rehab techniques were passed along like folk knowledge. We had little to no foundational training. Today, that has changed. Research and “Best Practices” guidelines enable us to deliver a product that provides our customers with objective, legally compliant and defensible solutions.
How can an industrial rehab professional develop a fund of knowledge, build a successful practice, and reach a level of mastery in the field? Over the years, I have noticed some fundamental truths.
Truth #5: "It's not what you say, it's what people perceive."
Your product should be objective
Research! A literature search should be ongoing. You should have an evidence-based reason for everything.
Your product or service should be consistent
That means developing your own philosophy and best practices model so your protocols achieve a similar outcome, no matter who provides the service.
Your product should provide a solution
That means that your referral source can be confident that your service is valid, defensible, and compliant.
Truth #4: "No good decision was ever made in a chair."
Develop a comprehensive skill set
Your practice should have a clinic-based, and an onsite employer services component.
Associate with a variety of professionals: medical, legal, and workplace.
Use your existing skills as a springboard
You are always preparing for your next adventure. Don't be afraid to leave a job if the next one helps you grow.
Truth #3: "Technology is your friend but use it wisely."
Technology should validate your methods
Standardized tests should co-validate your hands-on clinical observations.
Technology improves the appearance of your product
Color, charts, graphs, and photographs provide your documentation with a “pop” that plain narrative never will.
Technology DOES NOT replace clinical reasoning
The final conclusion reached in a document should be based on a balanced analysis of both technological and hands-on data. Never use a “common phrase” or a “macro” in an assessment and recommendation.
Truth #2: "Find a mentor (or a system)."
Trial and error wastes time
Need I say more?
Who (or what) qualifies as a mentor?
A mentor can be older or younger than you. It can be a person, or a protocol. The bottom line is that this person or system is smarter than you - they know more than you about something you need to know.
A mentor or system can add context and common sense to the science
Clinicians sometimes get “lost in the protocol”. People are complex bio-psycho-social systems. A mentor or a system can provide you with the “why” behind the “what”.
Truth #1: "Be a Maven."
What is a Maven?
Mavens are those with special skills or highly valued expertise who want to build their practice. They enjoy sharing their knowledge and benefit by doing so. They are the readers of this article. They are you.
Improve your skill set
Attend as much continuing education as you can. Search online for research articles. Learn techniques from other professionals outside your specialty area. Your responsibility is to know more than your competition.
Develop “Raving Fans”
If you follow these Truths, this part is easy. You will develop a corps of customers who will come back for more and who tell others about you. They will open up opportunities for you that you never could alone.
Thirty years goes by quickly! Expectations change over time:
In your 20’s, you are paid for raw effort.
In your 30’s, you are paid for skill.
In your 40’s, for knowledge.
In your 50’s, for wisdom."