Physical Therapy Day of Service started with a “What If?” What if on a singular day, the entire profession came together to give back to their communities through service? What might start as a small ripple of change, could grow to a wave that positively affects a whole community, an entire city, an entire country, and eventually the entire world.

Service is in our DNA

Service is in the heart of every healthcare provider, and very notably in the hearts of physical therapy. We came into the profession to help people. We give ourselves selflessly to our patients every day. To us, service is in our DNA.  It’s no wonder that this “What If” idea rapidly grew to a global event that has cumulatively galvanized over 14,000 participants from over 55 countries and all 50 states since 2015. The impact that PTDOS has had on the lives of those less fortunate is immeasurable.  But past this singular day, how can physical therapists continue the spirit of servant leadership?

From my experience as Communications and Outreach Chair for the past 3 years and Co-Director of PTDOS this past year, I have been overwhelmed by not only the positivity that is spread throughout our communities, but by the renewed sense of purpose and pure joy that spreads within our profession alone.  We so often get bogged down by the administrative burden of clinical work: documentation, productivity, authorizations, denials, etc, that we lose the pulse of why we came into the profession in the first place. And in our busy lives, it can seem like a challenge to take additional time out of your day to give back.  

Four ways to get – and stay- involved in your community

Let me propose a challenge for everyone reading this. If you participated in PTDOS and felt a renewed sense of energy and purpose, continue to participate in service year round. If you did not participate in PTDOS this year but are feeling exhausted and burnt out by your current role, give community service a try and see if you find yourself recharging.  While we recognize service isn’t about how we feel, it is the energy that we get from helping others that keeps us coming back time after time.

So how exactly might you participate in service? There are many outlets to continue the momentum from PTDOS year round; some healthcare related and others not. The training we have as PTs sets us up for a wide variety of ways we can give back. Personally, I find it refreshing to volunteer in areas in which I am less familiar. Stepping away from the healthcare perspective often helps me realize how many factors are at play in regards to overall well-being, both physical and mental.  Below I have outlined several ways you can get, and stay, involved!

Pro Bono Service

Many universities and some hospitals run pro-bono clinics and are often in need of experienced clinicians, supplies, or financing.  Faculty and students from FSRL: Faculté des Sciences de Réhabilitation de Leogane held a pro-bono clinic for their service project. It was a full day of physiotherapy assessment and treatment for the people of Leogane, Haiti.  Interested in a local Pro Bono project? Reach out to a university near you. Run a pro bono clinic? Check out MoveTogether’s ProBono Incubator Program.

Educational Seminars and Workshops

While there are liability considerations to take when providing Pro Bono services, empowering others through education is a service of equal importance. In this photo, Physiotherapists from Hiwa Hospital and وچان. Wchan, which is an organization for victims of human rights violations, came together in Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan, Iraq to hold an event for survivors of breast cancer. Participants learned about the benefits of physical activity and exercise. They were also taught specific exercises which are beneficial for promoting the health and well-being of cancer survivors.

Clean Up a Park

Movement is often the basis for all exploration and allows us from a very young age to see our environments with freedom. Consider volunteering to clean up a park or build jungle gym equipment to help facilitate safe environments that encourage healthy movement. Check out these volunteers from the Nebraska Physical Therapy Association and NSSIG work together to clean up Holmes Park in Lincoln as part of the Global PT Day of Service.

Host a Supplies Drive  

Whether it’s blood, food, clothing, shoes, bicycles, treatment tables, or splints and braces…mobilizing your community to donate high-quality supplies is a great way to make an impact on communities less fortunate than your own. Thanks to the group who came out to volunteer at Free Bikes 4 Kidz! Over 10,000 bikes were cleaned, prepped and repaired to donate to kids in our communities.

We could write the worlds longest blog post about how to participate in service year round. The important takeaway is that not only is service an easy way to remind yourself why you got into this profession, but even just a seemingly small act can create a ripple of positive change that will be felt around the world.  Here is a list of all the sustainable service projects and organizations that we collaborate with for PTDOS.

Sign-ups for PTDOS 2019 will go live in January. Until then, stay up to date with our latest service stories and our 2018 impact figures by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and via the hashtag #PTDOS.

To learn more or donate to the parent organization of PTDOS, visit

Until next year, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your passion. It is because of people like you that we are a better profession, a better society, and a better world!


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