A Large Need for Women’s Health Physical Therapists in Rural America
Written by Alexis Smith PT, DPT
My entire childhood, I dreamed of becoming a Veterinarian. I was a very good student in high school, and graduated Valedictorian of my small class. I then attended a prestigious liberal arts college for undergraduate, and had a difficult time making high science grades. I worked part-time as a student athletic trainer, played basketball for the college team, and studied constantly. Unfortunately, my rural high school had not prepared me for the science classes I would need to qualify for the Veterinary school program I applied to.
After graduating, I started to re-evaluate my career options, and realizing how much I enjoyed my college job in the athletic training room, I started working as a technician in an outpatient PT clinic. I took the science courses again, made a 4.0 the second time, and eventually was accepted to my dream Veterinary program as well as a DPT program. I decided to become a physical therapist and have not regretted that decision. Through PT school, I enjoyed my classes and clinical rotations, but did not feel as though I had found my niche. I finally took the women’s health class in my third year and a fire was sparked. I was able to shadow a specialist in pelvic health soon after and realized I had found my calling. I am very passionate about women’s health and so enjoy my work as a Pelvic Health PT.
I moved to Washington state a little over a year ago to receive more education and training in Pelvic Health PT. I was hired on to expand a private practice’s Women’s Health Program. There were more opportunities for mentorship within this company, and I took advantage of the weekly mentoring hours with a veteran WCS. I learned a great deal about patient care within the Pelvic Health World and was able to get CAPP Pelvic Health Physical Therapy Level 1 and Level 2 under my belt. I have worked with primary care providers, the community, and local pre- and post- partum fitness groups to grow my network and referral sources.
I am currently seeing about 50% Pelvic Health. My husband and I have decided to move back to our home state of Kentucky, where there are only four Women’s Clinical Specialists in the entire state. I have been hired on at a hospital in rural Kentucky to start a Women’s Health Program. There is a huge need for women’s health specialists in rural America and I hope to fill a need in this community. My plan is to build and grow a Women’s Health Physical Therapy program through marketing and community outreach while pursuing my WCS. I hope to become specialized in 2020 after wrapping up my CAPP-Pelvic Certification this year.
Pelvic Health physical therapy is a growing field and one which is so important. I love working with people, and women in particular who feel like they are alone and helpless in their pelvic health struggles. What I enjoy is empowering women to understand how to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life in an area that feels taboo to talk about. There is still so much information that needs to reach primary care providers about women’s health and conservative treatment options. I have worked to educate medical providers and people in the community about the importance of male and female pelvic health, and unless curricula are changed on a higher level in the education process, Pelvic Health PTs will need to continue sharing our knowledge on these issues. Lately, I have become especially interested in post-partum women and the emotional/mental difficulties they often endure (aside from physical problems).
I have been working hard to educate myself on these topics so that I can be a greater support person and guide their rehab in a way that works for them. I am also particularly interested in young female athletes and the importance of a menstrual cycle for health. So many of these girls seek help for periods that are “abnormal”, and they are quickly put on birth control contraceptives. This may have negative health consequences in the long term and the entire culture needs to be addressed with urgency. I am hopeful that I can be part of this movement to educate young women and their mothers to create a more successful and healthy life.