My journey to specializing in pelvic health as a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) has been unconventional, but really rewarding. As an older, non-traditional student of physical rehab, my story and perspective may be helpful for anyone out there considering a mid-life career change.
Prior to deciding to attend PTA school, I spent several years coaching in a privately owned gym that focused on group training and private training with kettlebells, barbells, and other functional implements with a particular passion for coaching women in strength training. The more people I worked with, the more I realized that there was a big gap of underserved clients who had either graduated from therapy entirely but had no idea how to truly re-enter (or enter in the first place) the world of fitness and wellness OR were currently in physical therapy for something specific, but were fully capable of working around their injury/issue to continue their regular fitness practice and just needed some smart guidance on how to do so.
As a coach, I worked on learning as much as possible to speak to those needs, but ultimately wanted to learn more about the rehab side of movement to be able to better serve them. At the same time, as I delved more deeply into coaching strength training for clients who identified as female, I began to learn more about pelvic health issues by necessity (for example, being able to speak to female athletes who would experience urinary leakage with high impact movements like jump roping or max effort lifts). I also coached multiple women in various stages of pregnancy, which led me to pursue a Pre & Post-Partum Coaching Certification. After learning about what I now know is just a small fraction of what pelvic floor physical therapists do, I was hooked.
My accelerated PTA program seemed to fly by so quickly especially given, well, everything about 2020. Despite the repeated COVID-related upheavals, I managed to secure a wonderful clinical rotation experience with a Physical Therapist (PT) who specialized in both pelvic health and vestibular rehab. I ended up spending my entire 16 week clinical rotation in the same clinic, which turned out to be the bright spot of my year! With a clinical instructor (CI) who specialized in pelvic health, I got the opportunity to learn more than I ever thought I could about this amazing specialty. She did a great job of teaching me, pushing me out of my comfort zone and trusting me to engage with patients, and on the way I got a chance to really get to know the faces of this unique population – across the gender spectrum, of varying ages, and all sorts of different needs. I had no idea of the depth and breadth of issues that pelvic floor therapy could address and so many of those issues (nutrition, habit psychology, pain science, trauma informed care, inclusivity, and sexual health) lined up with my values. I realized that my love of truly connecting with people, building trust, and turning shame and stigma into acceptance and celebration fit really well with this population and frankly, the rest is history.
Now that I’ve graduated, passed my boards, and am starting a new position in a clinic that specializes in pelvic physical therapy, I am determined to raise awareness of all of the ways that patients can benefit from pelvic PT at all stages of their lives. As a PTA, I also hope to advocate for the PTA profession, be a resource for older students who are returning to school and are unsure of how to navigate an accelerated program and clinical rotation, and help other PTAs who are interested in pursuing a specialty like pelvic health to do so.
Written by Meghan Ramos, PTA