“This is something you are just going to have to live with” is a common phrase that I hear come out of medical professionals’ mouths too often. The ease with which these professionals give up on supporting their patients is frustrating. I was diagnosed with Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) at around the age of 16; many years after my parents had begun searching for answers about my frequent pain and injuries. This condition not only affects my joints but my gastrointestinal health, my pelvic floor, and my mental health. This has meant that I have seen many providers to address my physical ailments including primary care physicians, orthopedics, OBGYNs, podiatrists, gastroenterologists, physical therapists, and other specialists. I have found community with others who have similar lived experiences. One commonality we have discussed is that when looking for resources to help address more “taboo” conditions, our symptoms are dismissed. This can be quite frustrating, as it already requires a person to summon enough confidence to ask a medical professional about their health concerns. Conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, urinary and fecal incontinence, dyspareunia, and others affect a patient’s daily life. I believe all patients deserve to be supported, helped, and respected. They deserve to be validated. This belief is my driving force in my education.
Pursuing a career in pelvic floor physical therapy is one way that I know I can use my skills to support patients who feel discouraged about their chronic illness and symptoms. Pelvic floor physical therapy is unique in the education we receive. As practitioners we learn to listen to our patients, we learn to look at our patient’s conditions without bias, and we learn to problem solve. We have so many tools in our toolbox to allow our patients to feel seen and heard. That is why I am excited to have this opportunity granted to me by the Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy. As a second-year DPT student at Virginia Commonwealth University, our education has been holistically tailored in order to grant us a sturdy foundation in which to practice physical therapy following graduation. It is with this knowledge that I will bring to the Pelvic Health Physical Therapy Level 1 (PH1) course in hopes to secure a full-time clinical rotation in a pelvic floor physical therapy clinic. Without PH1, students are unable to perform internal exams with patients during our clinical time frame. I believe that clinical education placements are the best opportunity for me to practice my skills and gain a deeper understanding of the field with the help of a mentor. In order to make my patients comfortable and confident in me, I need to be comfortable and confident in my own abilities. I look forward to the learning opportunities ahead of me and I know that this opportunity is only the beginning of my journey to erase the taboo surrounding pelvic health pain and disorders.
Author: Kaelie Jager
Author Bio: Kaelie is a second-year DPT student at Virginia Commonwealth University and a 2022 APTA Pelvic Health scholarship recipient. In her free time, she enjoys photography, reading a good book, and sipping on a warm cup of tea.