Happy happy Sunday! Of course I’m back with another awesome interview for “Life as a PT”! This one is a little longer than the previous interviews, but I promise you it is worth the read!
Today we will be hearing fromDr. Chanelle Yoder, PT, DPT!
Dr. Chanelle Norman (Yoder) is a physical therapist, business owner, storytelling strategist, and aspiring published writer. Her perspective and journey have been featured in several physical therapy/healthcare podcasts (the HET Podcast, the Pre-PT Grind Podcast, and the Duck-Legs Podcast). Her work has also been spotlighted by New Grad Physical Therapy (NGPT).
How did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in physical therapy?
Ah! My physical therapy career began when I was just 15 years old. As an athlete and empath, I knew that I wanted a career in the healthcare industry, but wasn’t entirely sure about HOW I wanted to help people. In high school, I joined the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) organization at our vocational school, which gave me tremendous insight into the medical field. I was able to shadow different professions and get a glimpse of what these people did on a daily basis. As just a junior and senior in high school, I was learning the skills of a certified nursing assistant (medical terminology, vital signs, CPR, first aid, etc.), and was actually eligible to sit for my CNA state licensure exam. Most importantly, however, I was developing a strong sense of appreciation for how to care for people, how to interact, how to see the bigger picture…and then one day, I shadowed my first physical therapist, working with a Traumatic Brain Injury patient. I wasn’t fascinated by the setting, or the technicalities of treatment, but I WAS captivated by the RELATIONSHIP between 2 people, working towards a goal. Before that moment, I had considered medicine, orthopaedic surgery, dentistry, and even marine biology! Not anymore….I was instantly driven by the relationship premise, and still am. From that second, I dove in. I geared towards physical therapy exclusively, researched programs in Indiana and started visualizing life as a therapist. I registered for the Indiana state HOSA competition in PT, where local vocational students interested in physical therapy compete for competency in anatomy/physiology, basic PT skills (ROM, modality application, transfers, positioning, etc), and placed 2nd in Indiana, both my junior and senior year. Little did I know, that was JUST the beginning, and I was going to really have to prove my intentions and aptitude for many years to come if I was really going to become a licensed DPT.
What was your favorite part of PT school?
My classmates, colleagues…but to really understand why, you’ll have to understand my beginnings.
When I graduated with my Bachelors degree in Human Biology, I had been wait-listed/rejected from every single MSPT/DPT program I applied to (about 15 total). I was crushed…beyond crushed. It impacted my identity on a very real level. My self-worth was wrapped up inside my professional goals, and left me at a major crossroad. My marriage began spiraling out of control, I developed obesity, depression, trust issues. The relationship I had with my husband (whom was my high school sweetheart and my best friend throughout the development of my career goals), had self-destructed. Our life plan was destroyed and the guilt/shame really hurt me. Our plan was to start a family once I finished my DPT, and here I was stalled. It wouldn’t be until 2 years later, after I completed a competitive PTA program at the University of Indianapolis (my plan B), that we later divorced, but these issues penetrated by heart tremendously. After completing my PTA degree and passing my boards, I IMMEDIATELY re-applied to the entry-level DPT program at the University of St. Augustine, FL. My husband and I had just moved, were on our way to purchasing a home, and then, I was actually called for a first-round interview for the program. I’m not entirely sure if he thought I would eventually be satisfied as a PTA, but in that moment that I divulged the information I had been accepted for an interview, and WOULD commit to commuting to FL from IN, twice a month, for 4 years, IF given the gracious opportunity, (which I remember vividly), we separated. Our relationship had deteriorated over the years, but this blind-sided me. I never imagined this outcome. Once I was offered admission, we officially decided to divorce, and as I began this VERY rigorous program just 6 months later, I was left as a raw, unsure, scared human being.
The insanely difficulty curriculum was one thing, the 800 mile one-way commute was another….but focusing and feeling good about myself while tackling this dream, was a completely different task, and to make matters more difficult, I allowed my struggling demeanor and confidence problems to entice me to begin a new relationship in the midst of this process. A relationship that destructed me far more than the failed first marriage. A relationship based in narcissism, emotional abuse, and turmoil. It’s true when they say it can happen to anyone, and it did. Before I knew it, I was wrapped around the finger of someone who did not act in love or appreciation, and that only drew me closer…I was determined to have a successful relationship. We later married, and within a few months of tying the knot, I experienced an even more extreme level of destruction. We divorced a year after marriage, and THAT experience was my 2nd biggest crossroad. What happened in the months following that divorce shifted my ENTIRE career, MISSION, PASSION, and PERSPECTIVE…and God, am I GRATEFUL.
Throughout the entire journey of graduate school, I leaned on my classmates. I was the gal vomiting in the bathroom before practical exams. The person breaking out in hives, over-eating to compensate for uncontrolled academic stress and a feeble-unproductive relationship at home. Our cohort of 22 eventually dwindled to 16, then 12. The workload was real and the sacrifices, plentiful. I had no life for 4 years. Working 40-50 hours a week as a PTA, to afford the travel expenses of DPT school, and homework/studying/research/writing by night, every night. I STILL feel anxiety when I walk into a hotel room. It was my life, but it was ALSO the life of 11-21 other students, and my closest friends. Experiencing really difficult things, with other people, is POWERFUL. I could not have succeeded without their presence. Little by little, these people whom all have different backgrounds, different strengths and weaknesses, different life demands….ALL combined to begin to re-write my story and I am beyond grateful for their impact in my life. They were my breath of fresh air.
What type of setting do you work in/What does a typical day look like?
I am a jack-of-all trades (: Currently, I own and operate my own private practice boutique, “emBODY|BOSS RehaBoutique”, in Bloomington, IN, where I specialize in women’s rehabilitation, specifically the aging community of 55+. I offer concierge services to busy professionals, and also contract with local home care companies to provide services to those currently home bound by their medical difficulty. On top of these endeavors, I am also doing freelance independent contracting for SNF over the weekends, as well as long-distance telehealthing :). Throughout the week, I spend time seeing my private patients, hosting mentoring for new therapists interested in lady-bizing, and am currently in the midst of writing a rehab book/workbook combo for post-natal women, and am developing a course module/mentorship academy for health care professionals interested in expanding their marketing efforts on social media with the use of storytelling and organic relationship building reach methods that I employ to build my community.
A typical day for me is NEVER the same and that is something I VALUE immensely. I usually wake up around 9:00am, and take time to honor how and when MY brain functions best. Occasionally I see patients in the AM if that is their need, but most of my clients aren’t morning people either (the beauty of attraction marketing) LOL! The perfect day is spent treating patients 25% of my day, creating content/storytelling 50%, and building my future 25%. My new husband (and saint of a human being/treasured anchor/best friend) is a new RN student, so I’m very focused on being sure to maintain a schedule that honors he and I well. Living my priorities is something I have learned to really cherish over the years. Bad relationships will do that to a person. (; I am my best, when that which builds me is thriving.
What is your favorite thing about the PT profession/your job?
The PT profession is VAST. I think it is easily the most vast profession in healthcare. As an entrepreneur, I am obsessed with abolishing limits and expectations. My patients are my friends, and that is an authentic, bold statement, I understand. It’s true though. Physical therapy goes beyond treating impairments…it goes FAR beyond what they teach you in formal education. A talented physical therapist is MANY things: teacher, doctor, problem solver, friend, collaborator, personal trainer, lifestyle manager, case manager. My job is to impact people in a way that = change. Whether it’s obesity, lack of fulfillment, pain, difficulty with functional tasks….my role is to facilitate the goals and inspire their vision. It is for this reason that I tackle my own life the way I do. If I want my patients to experience the most of their life, I had better be doing the same. No one resonates with a hypocrite.
What advice do you have for pre-PT or current DPT students?
Dear pre-PT students: do not let the admission metrics and standards established by DPT programs destroy your human-hood. Avoid unreasonable pressures. Value your circle of relationships more than anything. Protect your self-worth and honor your journey. It is a HARD road sometimes…trust me, I know. You NEED people to talk to, because it is difficult to manage the expectations set by both yourself and anyone else who knows your intentions of becoming a DPT. Take it a day at a time, and never underestimate the struggle. My struggles have created a life unlike any other…a life that inspires people. What you are working toward is building who you are, and that is better than any credential on the market.
Dear DPT students: realize that your ability to value a relationship and empathize with people is better than any specialization, credential, or manual therapy skill you’ll learn. Yes, I am a manual therapy specialist, but that is not my most coveted skill as a business owner or physical therapist. Time and time again, my patients remark that our reciprocal relationship and friendship has impacted them in a realm that far exceeds any other physical outcome. Be a human. Embrace your vulnerability and equally respect theirs. Never lose sight of the LIFE crossing paths with your LIFE. There is no greater opportunity.
If there is anything else you would like to touch on or add, please do so below!
Be PROUD of yourself and understand that no matter where you are in your career, struggles exist. At least once a day, I mentally feel like that seemingly unaccomplished 21 year old who can’t get into PT school. I regularly feel disappointed. I am an emotional mess much of the time (just ask my husband! LOL); Being a business owner is work, and the most difficult part of the journey is accepting who I am, and who I am not. Own who you are and be damn excited about it.
WOW WOW WOW! A big shoutout to Chanelle for taking the time to tell us all about her life as a clinic owner and physical therapist, along with the ups and downs that ultimately molded her into the wonderful woman she is today! This just goes to show that life doesn’t always work out how you expect it to, but it is up to YOU to remain persistent and continue working toward your goals no matter what. You can accomplish anything that you put your mind to. For more on Chanelle and her journey, you can follow her on Facebook or on Instagram as @the.embodyboss. She can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website.
If you are a practicing PT and would like to be featured in my next post (or if you know any PTs that would be interested), feel free to email me at email@example.com! If you missed the previous “Life as a PT” post, you should totally go check that out! Stay tuned to see the next PT that will be featured…I wonder who it will be!