The Beginning of the End

In 10 short days many of us will be finished with formal classes as we know them. Some of the 3rd year physical therapy students will still be returning to the Francis Center after the long Easter weekend, but many (including myself) will be finishing up the last module, before our final internship, by pursuing an independent study.

For those returning to the Francis Center for the elective courses, known as selectives, they will study one of the following subject areas: orthopedics, neurology or research. A few of us are staying local, but will be expanding our knowledge and understanding of physical therapy practice through local, independent studies in such areas as pediatrics and geriatrics. Others from our class will be traveling to the other side of the planet during this time to learn more about the world of physical therapy in Australia and other distant lands. These next seven class days will be our final days spent together as a class until we reunite at graduation!

As I think about the many hours, days, weeks, months and years that we have spent together as a class, it is hard to for me to wrap my brain around this reality.  We have been together since January 2012 and have been through so much together. It is difficult for me to grasp hold of the idea that this is the beginning of the finale; the beginning of the end of our time together at Elon.

While we still have the last days remaining in this module, six weeks of selectives, and our final (six month) clinical rotation ahead, I can’t entirely suppress the twinge of sadness creeping in as I think of our time as one big group drawing to a close. Elon’s class of 2014 physical therapy students are about to begin writing the final chapters in the story of their lives as PT students. My hope for each of us is that these last chapters are not only rich and exciting, but that they play a pivotal role in molding us into the great physical therapist’s that we aspire to be!

The Boys (and Girls) are Back in Town

I’m proud to announce that the family is back together. All 53 of us prodigal children fled from the campus of Elon University in January 2014 for our first clinical rotation and returned just a few weeks ago with stories to tell and more to learn. With our spirited minds from working in the clinic we were excited to share with each other the highs and the lows of the clinical experience.  Many positive remarks were voiced in regards to the actual physical therapist one worked under; aka the clinical instructor.  The clinical instructors were of all ages and many had different backgrounds of PT practice in regards to specialization, level of degree, and years of experience as a clinician.  Being exposed to actual patients and practicing what we have stored in our head over the past year was definitely a high for all of us.  The cookies, wine, cake, and other goodies brought in by our patients was just another plus as well. :)

Today we are back in the classroom until July when we head off to our next clinical rotation either in the hospital or skilled nursing facility.  What a different experience that will be.  In order to prepare, we will spend the next 14 weeks inside the brain. The Neuro Module will expose us to how to help patients post-CVA, TBI, etc. or those diagnosed with Parkinsons, MS, etc.  I personally have had limited exposure to patients with neurological deficits so I have many unanswered questions that this module, I know, will address.  The weekly schedule resembles those in the past with class typically 9-4pm daily. We have the joy of returning to the anatomy lab to capture the tiny details of the human brain while dissecting and exploring.  It is exciting to be back at the familiar Gerald L Francis Center learning new information but at the same time it is a hard transition from “working” at the clinic and having free weekends to having deadlines on the mind.  The weeks ahead will build in us character, a better PT, and the ability to enrich a patient’s life through rehab.

 Being back on Elon’s campus also means the buildup of extracurricular activities.  Intramurals began for soccer and softball beginnings are just around the corner. We look forward to hosting the Spring Special Olympics and being involved in fundraiser walks/bikes for ALS and MS.  The Elon DPT H.O.P.E pro bono clinic is well underway.  I’m amazed at my classmates’ ability to initiate, progress, and run a pro bono clinic for the community.  This is a dynamic program with more and more doors opening for education, challenges, opportunities to volunteer and opportunities to share your skills and knowledge of PT and life.

Perspective

It’s March. That means Madness! With the ever-exciting NCAA tournament just around the corner, I think it’s safe to say that my classmates and I are all excited that the mid-term madness is over. Last week was our first official week of mid-terms as PT students….seven mid-terms in five days!! So how’d we make it through all that information you might ask? Gratuitous amounts of coffee? Lots of group studying?? Taking full advantage of every possible white board in the Francis Center??? While we certainly utilized all of these things, I think one of my most helpful tools was the reminder that all of this hard work and studying is ultimately leading us towards being able to positively and tangibly affect the lives of our future patients.

It can be intimidating at times to think about how much information we have left to cover as students and on top of that, we’ll need to keep learning as professionals if we want to meet our true potential. However, when we realize that this continued learning is ultimately for the good of our patients, the intimidation factor goes way down. And honestly, isn’t it great that we’ll be working in a profession that keeps improving itself and that offers us fresh opportunities to learn and implement new skills?? The future, though filled with much learning and more studying, is bright and exciting!

Happy bracketology season!

The Kindness of Faculty

April showers bring May flowers, but what does a snow storm followed by an ice storm bring to the south in March? Well, at Elon University, it brought two days of cancelled classes, power outages across campus, and a fallen tree crashing into Belk Pavilion! While this month has been off to a chaotic start, coming in like a roaring lion, perhaps we will luck out and it will go out like lamb! Ironically, the peculiar weather we experienced this past week reaffirmed one of many reasons why Elon is the place to go for physical therapy school.

No, it’s not because I am originally from New York and the storms reminded me of how grateful I am not to be immersed in snow for months at a time! The reaffirmation came through an e-mail from one of our kind and hospitable professors, who was offering her home to any of her students without power. Whether a warm shower was needed or a warm place to sleep, her offer was available to (all 58) of her students! I use the term reaffirmation when referencing this, because things like this are not foreign to our class. With many of us coming from out of state, a different professor sent out an e-mail, back in November, inviting all students (that could not make it home for the holiday) to his house to have Thanksgiving dinner with him and his family! If these acts of kindness are unheard of to you, then you haven’t been to Elon…and… if that’s the case, you really need to come check us! Not only do we have the best facility for physical therapy education, but we also have the best faculty!

Now, on to academics…

Aside from the bizarre weather at the start of the month, Module X also commenced at the start of March. It is proving to be a little crazy as well! As third-year students, we had just grown accustomed to a set schedule, including such things as: weekly quizzes, mid-terms, practical and final exams. We were “in the groove” so to speak. My classmates and I “had things down”…until Module IX ended and Module X began. In this current module, even my peers who were the anti-daily planner types…the ones that wouldn’t own a calendar if their lives depended on it… even they are reconsidering, and some have  already make that  small investment at Staples to help them get organized!

Why the intense need for organization, you ask? Well, we are not only divided into three separate groups for one of our classes, so that you and the person sitting next to you in one class, have nothing else in common for the other classes, but we are doing group work galore! Having been an elementary and middle grade physical education teacher for almost 10 years prior to coming to Elon, I like to think of myself as organized and on top of what’s going on. This module however, even I am struggling!  I am in five different groups, with five different topics, collaborating with up to seven different people per group, and working around at least three different schedules in most groups!

While the new daily-planner and calendar owners are jotting down schedules, meetings, due dates and deadlines, you will not observe them penciling in exam and test dates, with the exception of just one class we’re currently taking (that has 3 exams). Again, this is much different from last module in which our daily planner was littered with exam dates. So, which do I prefer… the maddening attempt to juggle studying for multiple exams… or…  the circus act of trying to accommodate a plethora of  schedules all while attempting to produce stellar group projects, presentations and papers? That is a question I cannot answer just yet; we are only half way down the super highway of Module X with two weeks down and two to go! Only time will tell if this module will go out like the lion it came in as or if it will transform into a peaceful lamb.

 

Busy Times, Big Adventures

Change is on the horizon! With just two weeks remaining in this module, only a few modules remaining, and a large percentage of our class leaving in six weeks to study off campus (for what is known as the “Selectives Module”), our time together, as a class at the Francis Center, is limited! However, the time we do have left, is time that is being utilized well.

In a joint effort between our exercise physiology and cardiopulmonary labs, we have been working with individuals from our community to create physical therapy rehabilitation programs that meet their individual needs. Our class has had the opportunity to perform and implement examinations, evaluations, outcome measures, interventions, home exercise programs, and re-evaluations, as these individuals have volunteered to be our patients twice a week, for six weeks. Throughout this six week program, our class has worked together with each other, with the patient and care giver(s), and with our professors to provide quality care to each participant. It has been a great experience for everyone involved and with only two sessions remaining, I can confidently say that all of our patients have made great progress!  While our patients may have learned a few things from us, I am convinced that we learned more than a just few things from each of them; the value of working with patients “hands-on” far exceeds any textbook, lecture, or simulated experience!

As a part of DPT 709-Directed Research I (DR-I), another class that we are involved in this module, we have not only had the opportunity to dive into what the research reports about topics of our choice, but we have been placed in small groups with other students that have similar interests. In these small groups, we have been given the opportunity to review articles, selected by peers in our group, and have been assigned the task of looking more critically at the information presented. After analyzing the information, each of us decided if we would apply the ideas presented in the article, or if it would take more to convince us to use such interventions with our patients in the future. This class has not only been interesting and thought provoking, it has also made us into authors! Each participant in DR-I class, has submitted their article review to a website called Students 4 Best Evidence. This site is a great resource for future clinicians and serves as, “a network for students interested in evidence-based healthcare.”

After submitting our article review and making any changes (that may have been requested by the publisher), our article reviews were posted to the site. The best part about this site is that each article review is presented in a blog-like format, using easy to understand terminology, and allows readers to leave comments, tweet, or re-post article reviews to Facebook and other social media sites. I highly encourage every student studying rehabilitation and/or medicine to check out this site at www.students 4bestevidence.net.

With so much going on as we wrap up this module, I could continue writing by sharing all the interesting things happening in our other classes as well, but … with finals here, it’s time for me to hit the books! So, be sure to look for next month’s blog as we continue our journey to becoming physical therapists!

A New Beginning

It’s official!! The DPT class of 2016 just finished our first module! It’s kind of crazy to think that our first month and module went by so fast, but there’s not much time to reflect because we’re already off to the races with our classes for Module II!

The first module was definitely a good introduction to grad school life, and I think we’re all thankful that we’re being eased into the flow of things. This pace has been great because it’s also given us the chance to start bonding with one another and to build some community. So far, some highlights include basketball in East Gym, wheelchair bowling and weekend hangouts. I’m super pumped to get to know everyone better and to keep building what I have no doubt will be an awesome, productive and cohesive DPT class!

Right now we’re getting ready for our first lab practical and trying to figure out the flow of Module II. We’ve got quite a few more classes now, so balance is going to be key. While there will no doubt be a lot of work and study involved, I’m excited for everything that we’re going to learn in Module II. Every class is one step closer to getting out and treating our first patients!!

What a Difference One Year Makes

I woke to the New Year of 2014 a little differently than 2013. Instead of waking and wondering how the first day of the Elon DPT program would go, who my classmates would be, and what the landscape of North Carolina would be like, I woke wondering how my first day of working in the clinic would go, who my first patient to evaluate would be, and what the mountains of South Carolina would be like.  It’s a different world come the second year of DPT.  It brings new challenges to tackle and new stressors; but in the end it is just another step to becoming a physical therapist. The second year starts with 2-months working and learning at an outpatient clinic. Personally I am stationed down in South Carolina near the Sassafras Mountains along with three other classmates. We found a mountain cabin to rent and are counting our blessings in having each other to bounce ideas and questions about physical therapy off of. Of course we are also taking advantage of the beautiful geographic location that surrounds us.   Overall our class has exploded over the nation and we are spreading our cooped up enthusiasm and passion for life and physical therapy everywhere.

The day in the life of a physical therapy student at the clinic changes by the hour. We are assigned a clinical instructor at the clinic who is to guide and share their gems of knowledge to us. They are to stretch us mentally; at times it feels as if you are being fed to the wolves, but by the end of the day character is built and the spectrum of PT knowledge is that much bigger and broader. Each week a little more independence at the clinic is given and by the end of the two months we should be able to handle a good portion of patients on our own. Currently we are three weeks into this clinical rotation.  I am starting to feel more comfortable and confident with my evaluation and treatment skills.  I’m building a good foundation of what to do for simple orthopedic cases and am developing more of a tolerance to handling complicated ones.  The 8-hour state of shock and panic has faded into a hint of “deer in the headlights” look when presented with a case that I initially am unaware of how to treat.  It is at this point I fall back to what we were taught last year and manage to make it through. I have confidence in knowing that I have a good knowledge base from Elon and have a clinical instructor with years of experience to confirm my thinking process. I’m excited to see what another five weeks of working in the clinic will bring.

Overall I’ve heard good reports of our class’ experience with their clinics. Some have been absolutely loving it and some have had to turn lemons into lemonade.  I look forward to reconvening in March to discuss the knowledge gained, the challenges, and the fun of living in the “real world” for a few months.  It sure does feel good to escape the life of 8-hr flat butt, thoracic kyphosis, and forward head for a bit. As for myself out in the Sassafras Mountains with my other three classmates, we are having a grand time hiking, meeting the locals, finding deer in our driveway, and enjoying the perks of our mountain cabin which just may include a hot tub.  We have been truly blessed. We can only hope that the patients we come into contact at the clinic are being blessed as well. Through our old and new knowledge, our motivation to learn, our willingness to listen, and our desire for them to get back to the life they want to live, I hope to both gain and give more and more throughout the next month at the clinic.