Putting All the Pieces Together

At long last it has finally arrived! The Elon DPT Class of 2016 is now a little over a month into our final clinical rotation and that means graduation is ever so close! It also means that we’ve reached the point where we get to take all of the didactic knowledge that we’ve soaked up over the past 2.5 years and put it to good use. For me, it’s been pretty amazing to see the growth that I’ve achieved from my very first clinical to this last one. While there is still MUCH to learn and many areas for continued growth, I’ll speak for the class in saying that we are much more confident and feel much more worthy of that oh so coveted license!

In addition to putting together all of our hands-on skills and knowledge, this clinical also affords us an awesome opportunity to build our research skills and our ability to contribute to the knowledge base of the profession at large via a case report. Basically, this involves us gathering data regarding the response to particular intervention strategies that we implement in the treatment of a specific patient. Our profession is constantly evolving, and this case report is a fantastic opportunity to become better equipped to contribute to this growth once we graduate.

Exciting and busy times for sure for the Class of 2016 during this final clinical! While I know we all certainly miss each other, it will only be a matter of time before we’re reunited to recap our final clinical and then walk across that stage!

A Clinical Purpose

As of June 1st, 2016, the Elon DPT class of 2018 is officially half way done with our first year of PT school! We currently find ourselves delving into Neuromusculoskeletal Assessment, Anatomy and Pathophysiology II, Clinical Seminar II, Human Motor Development, and PT Sciences III. The third module so far has been satisfying, allowing us to transfer our foundational knowledge from Module I & II to a more clinical and diagnostic setting. With our first clinical selection on our minds, we are eager to hone and test our skills as “practicing” student physical therapists.

Although now, the module is going swimmingly, I believe the majority of our class can attest to the neurological turmoil we experienced upon returning from our first weeklong break. After 12 long weeks of, as Dr. V puts it, “Drinking from a fire hose,” we were momentarily free to sip as we please from the sweet goblet of a week of freedom. The feeling was eerie due to having no dreams of brachial plexuses, no PTSD from a near ‘instafail’ during a PT I practical, and no 30 page patho study guides. However, I think its safe to say a week away was not long enough.

On a completely different note, I want to begin to advocate strongly for you to participate in Elon DPT’s H.O.P.E. Clinic. There is no better place to test your skills and come to the realization that all your hours of hard work and studying are leading you down the right path! I know I personally have had a fantastic experience being able to use what I’ve learned outside of a strictly academic setting. To see the fruit of your labor through your patient’s progress gives you an inexplicable sense of accomplishment, thus rejuvenating your drive to dive head first into your studies.

The Highest Standard of Care

We (the 2nd year PT class) are now in our 13th week of a 16-week marathon of neuroscience. I’m sure many people in our class would say that they’ve “hit a wall.” So much knowledge has been stuffed into our brains as we learn about the brain! Last week’s 4-day Memorial Day Weekend was much needed. We have come back refreshed and ready for the last 3 weeks before heading off on our clinical rotations for 4 months!

One of my favorite aspects of this module are the number of patients we are able to meet and learn from who have neurological impairments. It is great because patients receive therapy and we get to practice our skills before we go on clinical rotations. Definitely a win-win! We have been able to talk to and work with patients who have had a spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, stroke, Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease, just to name a few. We all really appreciate how these clients share their stories; some are heart-breaking while others are encouraging. Nevertheless, we are grateful for these patients and the opportunities they give us to help us become better therapists.

One cool way our class was able to use our talents in the community was through the Special Olympics. Every year they are held on Elon University’s campus. Hundreds of athletes, both young and old, come from all over the area to compete in a variety of events. The 2nd year PT students had the opportunity to entertain the athletes in between their events. We had numerous activities including a dance party, velcro vests, obstacle courses, tug of war, and of course, the giant parachute (definitely, my favorite part of P.E class. as a kid).

If you follow this link to a video, you can see how much fun we had that day!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eX3oTPzy4i4

This spring, the PT program hosted the 2nd annual HOPE Clinic 5K. I know I have talked about the HOPE (Health Outreach Program of Elon) Clinic before, but for those of you who don’t know, it is a student-led pro-bono clinic that was started about 3 years ago. Every Tuesday evening, patients who don’t have insurance or who have run out of their PT visits for the year can come to the HOPE Clinic and be treated by students under the supervision of licensed PTs. It is a great way for students to serve those in the community, and to learn and refine clinic skills. That Saturday was the most perfect weather for a 5K and it was so great to see everyone out there who supports our patients the HOPE Clinic!

I’m sure that knowing all the parts of the Basal Ganglia will be important….someday…..maybe?? Until then, what has been helping me persevere through this intense 16-week module is knowing that what I’m learning will help me treat my patients with the best quality of care. We have learned so much over the past year and a half and I’m looking forward to what we have yet to learn in the next year and a half!

Enjoy some pictures of the fun times our class has had this spring!

Selectives

Word always wants to tell me that selectives is misspelled….I guess it’s thinking I’m trying to talk about electives. Segue! The Elon DPT Class of 2016 is currently making our way through the Selectives module, which is basically electives for PT school (happy now Word??). Before we head out onto our final clinical rotation in a few short weeks, this module provides us with a lot of very helpful options such as having the chance to build more skills in a practice area of interest and getting opportunities to review skills/knowledge that we’ve gathered in the past few years. Currently we’ve got students in the ortho selective, the neuro selective, the pediatric selective, as well as five students learning about PT in Belgium, three students learning the ways of the Australian PT, two students fending off grizzly bears while learning at a PT clinic in Alaska, and a few students doing independent studies in other specialty areas! There are MANY strengths of our program, but I truly believe that this Selectives module is one of the best. Not only is it a great time to learn and review, but it’s also a really sweet time for us to reflect on how far we’ve come and how we’ve all developed our own specific passions.

While I know we’re all very excited to get started with our final clinical, it’s also bittersweet to think that our classroom days together are coming to an end. Luckily though, many of us will be close enough to visit each other, and I’m already excited to hear about all the awesome things we’ll do during our final rotation!

The DPT Bond

For much of my undergraduate experience I often felt like a lone wolf tackling my academic endeavors. From time to time I’d seek the company and advice of others, but primarily I preferred solitude. In hindsight, I realize each individual in my undergrad experience had a different path down which they sought their own unique goal. The DPT program provides a stark contrast to that environment; we are all here with a common goal to achieve the all mighty ‘knighting’ of the DPT degree. We no longer see unfamiliar faces from class to class but rather the same faces every day in every class. You end up spending more time with your classmates than you will by yourself. While during the first few weeks of the program I felt aloof to my classmates, each day we grew closer. Over the past four months our class has created a strong bond as we’ve conquered our first round of midterms, practicals and cumulative finals.

Although with this bond I can’t say I know every detail of all my classmates’ lives. However, I can say that I know each member is willing to help another whether it is academically or emotionally. We have come to understand that alone, many of the academic challenges we face are daunting and often elicit a fairly intense sympathetic response (especially midterm and finals week). However, together, the countless hours of studying and practicing wheelchair transfers (and bed mobility and gait training and proper guarding) all work out.

The beauty of your class community is that what knowledge one individual may lack, another will have and vice versa. Being part of the ‘pack’ will become your greatest resource. It becomes your support system, your motivation, and where you find life-long friendships.

Together Again

Greetings, friends!

The second-year PT students are back at Elon post-clinical and the Neuro module is in full swing! We spent January and February on clinical; we were on our feet all day treating patients, and getting a taste of the real world of PT. A majority of my class was in the outpatient orthopedic setting; by the end of the clinical, we were all able to carry 75 percent of an entry-level PT’s caseload! It is pretty cool to see how much we have learned and how far we have come over the course of a year.

I am not going to lie; I really miss working in the clinic! I was in an outpatient orthopedic clinic near Myrtle Beach. I learned so much about patient care and treatment, and therapeutic interventions from the PTs and PTAs I worked with. My clinical instructor was one of the kindest and most patient people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She was so encouraging and wanted me to get the most out of my clinical experience. She also provided me with the wonderful opportunity to observe total hip and knee replacement surgeries. It was a very bloody, but absolutely amazing experience. My clinical instructor made me feel like home in a place where I knew no one. She invited me out to dinner with her family, and we even (and the other lady PTs) went to a painting and wine event!

But alas, we are out of the clinic and back in the classroom. Although I miss the clinic, it is wonderful to have our PT family back together again! March was definitely a transition month for my class. We all had the time to share great/funny/sad stories of our clinical experiences, but had to quickly get back into study mode.

But not too quickly!

March is the one time of year where all three PT cohorts are together at the Francis Center. It is really cool to see the Francis Center hustling and bustling with brilliant minds! We all had time to mingle amongst each other while eating pizza provided by the PT department, and the new first-year class seems like a fun and smart bunch of people!

I know I talk about this a lot, but PT friends become family. I can already see it happening in the first-year class! We spend Saturdays at the coffee shops together, go camping together, and work out together. Some of us weren’t able to spend Easter with our families back in other states, but it was OK because we had our PT families here. We also know how to be competitive with each other and had another successful year of March Madness together. Third place for this girl!

Now back to good stuff…NEURO!

Instead of learning about ACL and rotator cuff tears like last fall during our orthopedic module, we are now learning about dysdiadochokinesia, homonymous hemianopsia, and habenulointerpeduncular tracts amongst other things. Neuro is another language. It’s difficult, but it is all right because we have Dr. Folger and Dr. Andrews there to interpret it all for us. They simplify neuroscience as much as they can to make it easier for us to understand. We also draw a lot to help us make sense of things within the brain and spinal cord. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m going to PT school to be a physical therapist or to be an artist!

Prior to PT school I didn’t understand how much diversity there is within the field of physical therapy. Treating a patient with orthopedic injuries is so different than caring for a patient who presents with neurological deficits. Patients need physical therapy is a variety of different settings: outpatient, inpatient, sub-acute, acute, skilled nursing facilities, home health, and more! Each and every day as a physical therapist is different which makes the career very exciting! Each patient presents with a different problem and individual needs; however, PTs have one common goal for all patients and that is to improve their quality of life. It is a lot of information for us students to learn, but with the help of our professors, it is exciting to know we will be able to confidently treat anyone with a physical ailment by the end of next year.

In order to do this, however, I must get back to studying! Until next time…

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Focus on the Person, Not the Number

One of the things that I love most about our PT program here at Elon is the large number of opportunities that we have to interact with people in the Elon/Burlington community. From actors that come into school to serve as standardized patients to the residents at local retirement communities, we are blessed to learn so much through our interactions with these great people. During one recent interaction as a part of our geriatrics course, a classmate and I performed a one rep max assessment with an individual from one of our local retirement communities. As we were completing the assessment, she said that while she knew the intent of the session was for us to share information with her, she turned the tables on us and informed us that she had something of her own that she wanted to share. She told us of a negative health care experience that she had recently had where the individuals delivering her treatment made her feel like just another number in a long list of patients that needed to be seen. Urging us strongly to avoid this mentality at all cost, she told us instead to always remember that we are working with people and that we therefore have an obligation to treat every person with genuine care and respect.

 

I loved this interaction not only because we received some timely and important advice but also because it reminded me that the people that I treat often have more of an impact on me that I have on them. Yes, PT is undeniably about using the skills and knowledge we have accumulated to make physical improvements in people’s lives; but perhaps more importantly, it is also about building relationships and making sure that each of our patients knows that we don’t view them as just another number. Here’s to many years of building awesome relationships through PT!