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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A Season of Thanks, A Lifetime of Thankfulness

On Thursday, all across America, families and loved ones came together to eat copious calories, watch football and hopefully spend some time reflecting on the things for which we can offer our thanks. My use of the word “thanks” there is 100 percent intentional because I’ve come to realize over the years that there is a difference between “giving thanks” and thankfulness. “Giving thanks” is something that I see as temporary and a behavior that we’re especially prone to do this time of year. While that is CERTAINLY not a bad thing, I’m working hard in my life to maintain the more permanent state of “giving thanks,” i.e. thankfulness. Thankfulness, I believe, is more of an attitude and a state of mind rather than a behavior, and I think it has profound implications for how we live our lives and for helping us live out our lives with joy.

Wow….ok now that I’m done waxing philosophical, I’d like to take this time to say that in my striving (yes, it takes work to maintain this attitude!) to maintain an attitude of thankfulness, I am reminded how much I love physical therapy and how grateful I am that I get to spend a lifetime making a positive difference in the lives of others. In addition, I’m grateful for the Department of Physical Therapy Education at Elon University and for the ways that our faculty pours into our lives and education. And last but not least, I’m grateful for the influence that my crazy awesome (seriously, they’re both crazy and awesome) classmates have had on my life over these two short years. So class of 2016, as we move toward our last year, let’s both give thanks and put on an attitude of thankfulness as we move closer towards the day where we can write DPT after our names and start doing what we love most!

Finding the Land of Milk and Honey

I am here reporting from the front lines of the lives of 3rd year DPT students with good news to share. Things are well. The leaves have changed from green to red and yellow, the hot heat in the Carolinas has dissipated, and activities within the realm of physical therapy are streamlined. We continue to enter the doors of hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, and more. We motivate our patients, we motivate our clinical instructors to continue teaching us at the 5th month, and we motivate ourselves to continue to work without a paycheck. Only 4 weeks to go! The end is in serious sight.

With the end in sight we start setting our eyes on employment. Resumes are being perfected and edited by Elon upon request. Before starting the 6-month clinical we gained advice about resume building, job searching and interviewing. We reflected upon what we would look for in a company from continuing education benefits to productivity expectations. The goal is to find that team that you fit well into and that fits well with you. The market for new grad PTs is different across the nation. I’ve heard stories of many offers and stories of few. It depends how open or closed minded you are and what your expectations are from the beginning. This program is a lot of work and I plan on finding the land of milk and honey at the end of this graduate journey. That reward looks different for every one of my classmates. It may come in the form of a paycheck, the satisfying fulfillment of independence, a geographic location of choice or a setting of choice, and perhaps even the freedom from assignments or freedom from the student label.

November will be our last month on this 6-month clinical journey. Hurrah!se

We’re Basically PT’s….sort of

Seems like just yesterday that we were nervously awaiting the start to our first clinical rotation. Fast forward to this first day of November 2015 and we’re now officially finished with three of our four clinicals. And that also means that we have all had the opportunity to experience and treat patients in a number of different kinds of clinical settings.

Honestly, as I think about returning to campus for more didactic material, I’m tempted to just say “Hey, who needs more class!? I mean, we’re basically PT’s now right??” Wrong. While I’m sure that I speak for everyone in saying that we have learned a TON of skills and gained a TON of knowledge during these three clinicals of 2015, we would be doing a disservice to our future patients if we think for a second that we’re above the information that we will continue to learn and absorb back at school. PT is a profession that demands the willingness to learn throughout one’s career, and while I will certainly miss the clinical life, I’m excited for this upcoming third year and the opportunities that it will bring with regards to learning how to more effectively treat my patients.

With all of that said, I hope as well that we will all take the time to reflect on all the amazing things that we’ve learned while on these two neuro clinicals. Personally, I know that I have the tendency to just bounce from one season of life to the next without taking the needed time to sit down and really think about the personal and professional lessons that I’ve learned. If I were to give in to that same tendency during this particular transition period, I would lose what are without a doubt some of the most important life and professional lessons that I have learned up to this point in my life.

So 2016, as we head back to school soon, let’s work hard to hold on to all that we’ve learned over the past 4 months while at the same time being thankful and excited for all the wonderful knowledge and skills that we have yet to learn!

It’s Inevitable: How to Deal with Homesickness

In the midst of a long module of Ortho classes, you could say I’m a little stressed and homesick. Don’t get me wrong, North Carolina is a lovely place to call home, especially with this gorgeous fall weather! But my classmates will tell you that Michigan has a special place in my heart (because half of my wardrobe is Michigan apparel). I especially miss my family in Michigan, but it’s all right because my PT family has my back and has become my second family.

We eat, hang, play, laugh and work together. It’s a beautiful thing.

First of all, we definitely know how to celebrate birthdays. Our president and vice president make sure everyone gets a funny card on their birthday and bring in delicious treats. I have eaten more donuts this year than I have my entire life! One day a classmate got a piñata for her birthday, so naturally Dr. Lawson hung the piñata from a theraband on a crutch and wanted my classmate to strike her piñata with a quad cane. Wish you could have been there to understand the madness that was going on that morning. It was a definitely a memorable day in PT school.

Our class also embraced the fall season with pumpkin carving and every fall treat imaginable. It was a dream! Some people’s pumpkins were works of art. I hadn’t carved a pumpkin since my high school days, so it was fun to get all the guts out and carve. It was definitely a good bonding experience with classmates and a nice time to take out some stress on the pumpkins!

I have also been able to bond with my classmates over intramurals! I participated in volleyball and let’s just say that we DOMINATED. Elon’s DPT students are notorious for winning intramurals so we wanted to make sure to continue the tradition. We were undefeated and got super cool T-shirts! My fellow classmates also won flag football intramurals, too. Again, intramurals are another great way to bond with classmates and take out some stress.

Elon’s Homecoming was last weekend! None of us are alumni of Elon YET, but we decided to join in on the Homecoming festivities. The small town of Elon was booming with returning alumni and parents visiting for the weekend. Elon may not have the most winning football team around, but nevertheless, students and parents enjoyed a crisp, fall, Saturday afternoon of football.

Believe it or not, most all of us know where we will be going for our three eight-week clinicals during our 2nd year. I’ll be in Myrtle Beach during the winter, which will be a nice change from the bitter winters of Michigan. Then I’ll be in Indiana and Illinois for my other clinicals, so it’ll be nice to be a little closer to family during the summer months! I’m excited and a bit nervous to step my foot in the clinic come January! I have learned A LOT this past year so I don’t know if I’ll remember most of it, but hopefully it has all become natural to me. We have had a lot of practice in class and in Elon’s pro-bono clinic, so I am confident it’ll show.

Demographically we are a diverse group of individuals, but we click so well. The love and laughter of my second family helps me get through those tough days when words like “presynaptic adrenergic inhibitors” sound like “skjdflksdsfdeghjosfj.” It will be strange as we part ways for our clinical experiences in January, but it will be great to come back and share our experiences with one another.

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