As I approached my last few days in Japan, I was honored that one of my students who I was helping to teach English to wanted me to visit his very own physical therapy clinic!
I had been working with Masahiro for a few months on conversational English, grammar, some medical terminology, and a few general patient-therapist conversations. It was an awesome experience not only helping him learn English, but also seeing that lightbulb go off when there was a connection made, especially during some of the medical terminology.
Masahiro had his own outpatient clinic in Odawara, Japan. He told me that while he went to school in Tokyo and many of his colleagues stayed there, he moved a little south to open his own clinic. He also loves to surf, so moving closer to the beach is a no-brainer!
“Groundwork” (the name of his clinic) was on the 4th floor of the building we walked to, in a single office room. There was a desk, a mirror, a set of parallel bars, a plinth, some weights, and a bunch of other typical outpatient goodies. Now, I know Japan has different health insurance, a different framework, etc… But clearly his clinic is for one-on-one treatment.
For one last English session, Masahiro “treated” me as a patient, using as much English vocabulary as possible to help improve my “glut med issue” – which wasn’t supposed to be an issue, but my balance was a little off, ha! He performed a few manual techniques, analyzed my gait, performed a few manual muscle tests, and gave me a few exercises to do. All with the English we had worked on together! It was so rewarding to see that!
When I asked Masahiro about his normal schedule of patients, he said he sometimes has patients as late as 10 PM. Crazy, right!? While that is late, it’s not all too surprising if you understand the nature and culture of Japanese people – they’re always working. I’m talking 60 hours a week as the norm sometimes. This obviously can be an issue with work-life balance, and it is something the Japanese people are trying to work on, but again, a 10 PM appointment is fairly normal to them.
Masahiro also stated that physical therapists in Japan are not looked upon as highly/paid as much as those in the USA. Granted, they also are still at the Bachelor’s level as compared to the Doctorate in the US, so I’m sure that in itself is a big difference. Not to mention there are varying levels of autonomy and they still require a referral from a physician at all times.
Overall, the outpatient clinic was quaint, tiny, but effective. Masahiro told me that most of his friends have similar clinics if they are in private practice. Of course, there are bigger gyms and rehabs as well. Again, it was a great experience and so rewarding to not only network with another physical therapist on the other side of the world, but help him out with his English while learning a little about different treatment techniques from one another.
If you’re interested in checking out my other experiences abroad – be sure to read my other blogs: A Day at a Japanese Day Rehab and Visiting a Singapore Physio School. Or if you just want to check out other real-talk-PT blogs, check out The Generalist PT, what it’s like to be an Acute Care Therapist, and The Struggles of Being a Small Physical Therapist.
Hope you enjoyed reading! Be sure to message me if you have any questions 🙂
Until next time,