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!

The Journey Begins

As the end of my second month in Elon’s DPT program nears, I am sitting here wondering what to write. In all honesty, this blog post is proving to be more difficult than any of the classes I have faced thus far. I can understand the physiology of nerve function, I can tell you all the terminal branches of the brachial plexus, and I can take you through upper extremity passive ranges of motion, but what can I tell you about your future experiences during the first months here at Elon DPT?

Well, to begin, don’t fret about the transition from undergrad, your current job, or your ‘no work-just fun’ hiatus leading up to graduate school. The first module of the program really eases you into the swing of things. There you will gain a clearer understanding of what it entails, both emotionally and professionally, to be a PT as well an insight into the world of healthcare. Besides the initial shock of meeting Dave, my anatomy donor body in our first lab, I’d say the first month went by smoothly.

Module 1 is an excellent time to explore the area (if you’re not familiar), meet your classmates, and find a daily schedule that’s comfortable for you. Definitely try to make time for yourself to do things you love or that put you in your happy place. Personally, I’ve begun waking up at 6 AM everyday to go workout before class, which I found helps me get through our long days of lab and lecture.

Speaking of lab and lecture, I feel it is important to implant one concept I’ve learned so far before embarking on your journey to becoming a PT, which Shrek and Donkey’s eloquent dialogue about onions beautifully illustrates. “Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. You get it? We both have layers.” While we are not becoming ogres (although some mornings I feel like one), we are building layer upon layer of skills; each skill acting as a foundation for the next. At the moment, we have only gained the first few layers of PT knowledge and it can be hard to fathom our end form. My advice is to forget about the future for the moment and live in the now, focus on the current material, and immerse yourself into the process of forming your newest layer of skill.

That’s all for now. I’ll keep y’all posted on how our road to becoming PTs is going!

Continuing Education

Based on the title, you may be thinking to yourself, “Hey, isn’t continuing education something that I do when I’m done with PT school? I’m already up to my eyeballs in anatomy, special tests, and spinal tracts!!” Don’t fret friends, I’m right there with you! The continuing education I’ve been pumped about recently is not anything to stress about; in fact I want to share some of my favorite resources that actually help keep the ole’ PT school stress levels down and the excitement about our awesome profession up! So here’s a list of some of these said resources that I particularly love….

  1. The PT Pintcast (and other PT podcasts) – I don’t know about y’all, but I am a HUGE fan of podcasts. And surprise, I’m also a huge fan of PT! So it shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that this awesome PT podcast is a favorite of mine. The host of the show is actually a PT student, and he brings on some big names in various fields of our profession (and related professions) to talk about all kinds of great PT related topics. Hearing from these guests of the show always makes me pumped about my career path and the many exciting skills that I’ll get to learn along the way. Check it out here http://www.ptpintcast.com
  2. Conferences – I just got back from CSM 2016, where I had the amazing blessing/opportunity to present my research project as a platform presentation. As one of my professors predicted would be the case, the whole experience got me hooked, and I can’t wait to go to many many more conferences throughout my career. There are many awesome things about conferences including the chance to network with tons of other PT’s, learn about the many exciting developments in our field, and learn new skills and information that can help us in the treatment of our patients.
  3. PT Apps – while listening to the aforementioned PT Pintcast, I heard about an awesome app called iOrtho+, which is an app that has tons of great info and videos about special tests and joint mobilizations. Another great app is called QxMD Read, which is an app that finds literature to meet your specific practice interests. There are obviously many more that exist, and I’m sure we’ll only see more exciting ones in years to come.
  4. PT Literature – cue the grrrooooans!! While I know it may seem tough to read research literature on top of all the other work we have to do as PT students, the app that I mentioned above and other resources (like personalized Pubmed searches) are making it easier than ever to find specific literature that excites you! Also, reading literature is a great way to stay abreast of the latest and greatest discoveries that can help us treat our patients in the best way possible.

 

Hopefully this small list excites you as much as it does me, and I hope you can make great use of these resources!

The Final Countdown

Now that you’ve read the title and have Europe’s famous one-hit wonder stuck in your head, let’s take some time to celebrate that the class of 2016 has made it to our final year of PT school! As we’ve been welcoming in the newest class of first year students over the past month, I’ve found myself having quite a hard time believing that it’s been a full two years since we were in their shoes. We certainly have learned a ton over that time period and have moved a lot closer to being full-fledged PT’s!

Even though we’re much closer to our dream of being licensed PT’s, this current module (module IX) has reminded me many times that there is still much to be learned. From learning what different EKG signals mean to determining the best fit for a patient needing a prosthesis, we have continued to gain valuable knowledge that will help us as we move closer to becoming practicing and critically-thinking clinicians. Also, aside from the in-school learning, I’ve also been listening to a lot of PT podcasts and reading a lot of PT-related literature (more to come on this next month!). While sometimes it can seem a little overwhelming to think about how much there is left to learn outside of our three years of PT school, I find it more exciting than anything, because it means I get to experience the blessing of having a career that will challenge me in fresh and exciting ways for years to come.

Here’s to what I know will be a great last year!

Learning (Way) Outside the Classroom

Today marks the third week of our clinical experiences for second-year students! It is so great to finally be in the clinic and putting what we have learned over the past year into practice. We are all in an outpatient clinic and from what I have heard from my fellow students, it is going really well so far.

Here are a couple of things I have learned:

1) Research is really important. During our first year we had to learn all there is to know about research. I think many of us thought we were done with research forever, but let me tell you, research never ends! There is so much research out there and as PTs we need to know what it all means and how we implement findings into how we practice. The field of physical therapy is always changing, so it is important to stay on top of recent evidence so that patients can get better faster.

2) Traveling for clinicals is really fun! Many of my classmates are working in local clinics (shout out to those people still holding down the fort in Elon!), but others are in Tennessee, Kentucky, Colorado, Arizona and Florida. I’m currently in a town right outside of Myrtle Beach, SC and absolutely loving it. I miss my PT school friends, but it’s been nice getting to know the people in my clinic. I am also enjoying walks on the beach, waking up for sunrises and getting to know a new area! If you have the chance to travel on a clinical, do it. You won’t regret it.

3) The practice of PT is different wherever you go. In some states it is legal to practice dry needling, while in other it is considered not within the scope of PT practice and therefore is illegal. My clinical instructor treats about 2-3 patients daily with dry needling. After seeing the immediate dramatic benefits it has given patients, I’m now a die-hard advocate for dry needling to be legalized within the state of NC. It is nice to be exposed to settings in different states to see how PT practice changes among them.

4) I really like the outpatient therapy setting. Each student has to find his or her niche, and I think I have found mine! I love the fun and relaxed environment in an outpatient environment. I also love to see how patients change and progress from visit to visit. We still have two more clinical experiences this year in the acute care and inpatient setting, but I think I have found what is right for me.

5) Being out in the clinic is a lot different than doing case studies in class. I was very nervous the first week to actually put my hands on and treat patients. In class we are put into hypothetical situations and our “patients” are our very strong, healthy and mobile classmates. In the clinic, you are treating real patients with real problems who really want to get better as fast as possible. It is really nerve-racking having to make real decisions about patient care, but I guess that is was being a DOCTOR of Physical Therapy is all about!

And luckily…

6) My clinical instructor (CI) is the best. I’m sure my classmates may say the same thing about their CIs, but I’d have to disagree with them. From day one, my CI has made me feel so comfortable in the clinic. She understands that I am a student and still learning, and is always willing to answer any question I may have…and I have many. She has even made an effort to get to know me outside of the clinic by taking me out to lunch and Costco! The best, right?! Elon has connections with great quality facilities and CIs and I am so grateful for this opportunity. I hope that all students have a CI who is as patient, understanding, and helpful as mine.

 

Talk to ya’ll again soon!

DPT Pro Tips

Happy Holidays, folks!

The DPT Class of 2017’s much needed week-long Thanksgiving Break has come to an end. After nearly 16 weeks of the Ortho Module, the break was much needed to reenergize the class for a busy two weeks before Christmas Break! It is hard to believe that in only two weeks we will be able to call ourselves “second years.” Yay!

As my class becomes second year students, a new class will be coming in January! As I reflect on this busy year, here are some tips that I have for incoming Elon DPT students, or any DPT student I suppose! NOTE: These are much easier said than done.

  • Find YOUR best way to study – Everyone studies differently. Some people prefer to study alone, while others prefer to study in groups. Some study best at the Francis Center, while others thrive in busy coffee shops, or at home. Some classmates will study for an exam for two hours, while some will study 20 hours. Whether you rewrite the material, talk it out or type up study guides, find the way you learn best and be content with it. Don’t let others judge you for how you study best, because everyone is different. You do you!
  • Get to know your classmates and professors – You spend a lot of time with these people, so make the most of it! Everyone in our class comes from different backgrounds and it has been lovely getting to know everyone. All the professors at Elon are pretty unique too. They all have awesome nerdy quirks about them, which makes them so likable! Lately on Fridays at lunch, our class has been tailgating by the parking lot. People have been bringing food, a grill, and lawn games and we have been having a great time together outdoors. Dr. Freund even brought out her volleyball net!
  • Pace yourself and stay ahead – The classes are difficult and move at a rapid pace. They are manageable if you stay on top of the material and don’t cram until the night before. I remember in undergrad when I could cram the night before and feel comfortable going into a test. Those days are gone. Stay on top of things as best as you can, especially during the second half of your first year when Ortho starts in August! You can do it!
  • Thoroughly enjoy breaks – During your first year at Elon there are seven full weeks of break. Seven full weeks! One for spring break, two for summer, one for Thanksgiving, and three for Christmas. There are also some periodic long weekends. That’s a generous number of breaks! Enjoy that time with family and friends doing fun things.
  • Make time to do things you enjoy – Even if it isn’t during a break, enjoy fun things! Call or Facetime friends and family, workout, pop on some Netflix, bake, cook, hike, rock climb, kayak, go for a walk or run, or get a manicure or pedicure. The options are endless. Make time in your schedule to do fun things.
  • Stop complaining – I have definitely learned this the hard way. Complaining doesn’t really get you anywhere; it just buries you into a deeper hole of unproductivity. Stay positive and optimistic even when you don’t think you can do it anymore. Listen to Nike, “just do it!” This is much easier said than done!
  • Stay healthy – It’s alright to have your go-to study snack *ahem* Sour Patch Kids *ahem*, but make time to stay active and eat well.
  • Forget about your grades – Remember that time when it seemed easy to get an “A”? It isn’t as easy as it used to be. It is tempting to check Moodle frequently to see if you are staying at an “A” average, but having those expectations is detrimental to your mental health. The professors are challenging, and are already prepping you for the licensure exam. Try your best, but don’t expect an easy “A.”
  • Share your study guides – Study guides are great way to review material and you can definitely help classmates out by sharing them via Facebook or email. You are not competing with your classmates anymore, so help a brother or sister out!
  • Practice what you learn in lab – Be sure to practice different patient scenarios so that you are ready for the clinic. Knowing all the information from the book is one thing. You have to be able to put it all together in the clinic if you want to have the best patient outcomes!
  • Research opportunities are what you make of them – Students must participate in a research project during their first year with a faculty member. While some enjoy research, for others it’s not really their thing. Many groups will be taking their research to different conferences, while some will be done with their research experience after their first year. Doing research can be time-consuming and frustrating because a lot of times things don’t go the way you intend, but that’s research! Think critically and make the most of it.

 

If I could sum up everything I just said I would say that PT school is all about balance. Treat PT school like a job, and don’t let it consume you. Stay healthy physically, mentally and emotionally.

I hope that these tips don’t scare you, but instead help you prepare for the busy and fun year ahead of you! I have to tell you that I’m guilty of not following my own tips during my first year. They are a lot harder to follow than what you think. Hopefully I’ll follow them a little better during my second year, and you can get it right the first time.

Good luck, first years! Welcome to the Elon family!

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