What led you to choose this career?
I was actively engaged in sports from a young age and throughout school was drawn to the sciences. I spent time exploring different options of how I could merge these two interests and after speaking with a university professor I landed on exercise physiology.
What interested you in working for Cleveland Clinic?
My main focus of exercise physiology was in cardiac care and at the time I was looking for internships, the Cleveland Clinic was just beginning its run as the best heart hospital in the world. I knew it would be a challenging yet exciting place to work as well as having many opportunities for growth. The culture of the Cleveland Clinic with its Patients First north star is what has kept me here.
What physical and/or soft skills do you need to succeed in this career?
There are many skills needed to be successful: these range from clear communication, building trust, listening and connecting with patients to help drive behavior change. Having a strong academic background enables an exercise physiologist to meet the demands of highly complex medical conditions to not only help a patient improve, but to avoid injury or other harm. To work in cardiology other skills needed are blood pressure auscultation, pulse palpation, 12 lead ECG interpretation, cardiac telemetry, pulse oximetry assessment, competency with cyclometers, knowledge of multiple types of exercise equipment and growing ability to work with multiple types of technological tools that patients use for self-monitoring.
What has been your most gratifying experience in this profession?
That is easy. When a patient looks you in the eye and states that you saved their quality of life. In cardiology, we often see patients at some of the lowest health levels in their lives and they are looking for support, hope and encouragement. Seeing that person return to a quality of life that makes them happy will always bring a great sense of satisfaction.
What career options are there for this profession?
Exercise physiology professionals are found in a variety of settings that can include hospital departments such as cardiac rehab, stress testing, sports medicine and research. Additional options include fitness centers, wellness clinics, personal trainers, specialty sports training centers, college sports teams as strength/conditioning coaches and professors. Some have even entered the technology world and helped to develop the next activity/fitness tracker or app.
What is something others may not know about this career field? What are some common misconceptions?
It is never just about exercise. As noted earlier, there are many different skills and knowledge that an exercise physiologist must have. Exercise, nutrition, behavior change are all intertwined and expert knowledge is needed in each in order to be successful.
What is the #1 piece of advice you would give to interested students?
Never sell yourself short, gain as much knowledge and experience in a variety of topics that intersect with exercise physiology. Take time to really work on the soft skills to help communicate with patients/clients to help them reach their goals. I recommend exercise physiologists take the extra steps to get certified by some of the leading sports science organizations such as ACSM, AACVPR, ASEP or NSCA.