Learning All Around the World

Hello Readers!

The 2nd Year Class is nearing the end of our clinical rotations and from what I hear (and from my own personal experience) we have all had a great time and have learned so much. We are really becoming physical therapists! There is only so much you can learn in the classroom, so it is great to get some hands-on experience with patients. Physical therapy students are pretty smart, but not the best actors when trying to “act out” being a patient; so it is great that we get to practice our skills on real patients who have had spinal cord injuries, strokes, and brain injuries. Our first rotation was an outpatient rotation, so now most if not all of us are at skilled nursing facilities, rehab hospitals, or in acute care hospitals.

In July and August I was at my acute care rotation at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Illinois. I (as well as many other PT students) have had my eye on outpatient orthopedics when I’m out of PT school. I enjoy working with this patient population and love the problem solving aspect that outpatient provides. However, in order to be a well-rounded physical therapist you must be exposed to different settings. I knew Dr. Andrews and Dr. Folger had prepared us well, but I was still a little hesitant to jump into the hospital setting. Patients may be medically unstable. There are lines, leads, and tubes everywhere! And what if I forget to set the bed alarm? Or what if I forget to leave the patient their call light? So many scary scenarios would pop into my head that sometimes I’d freak myself out.

Now, after eight weeks in Illinois I can now say that I really enjoyed acute care and could definitely see myself working in that setting some day. The patient presentations were so interesting and always kept me on my toes. My clinical instructors were helpful and made sure I wasn’t going to be pulling anything out. And soon after I began my rotation, setting the bed alarm and giving a patient their call light became routine. Hospitals aren’t so scary after all!

Another part of my clinical rotation that I really enjoyed was learning from other PT/OT students. The hospital provided housing to therapy students so I had the opportunity to live and work with students from schools all over the country. I had the pleasure of co-treating with OTs as well as other PT students. My clinical instructors also provided me with other learning opportunities like observing swallow studies with speech therapists, watching open heart surgery (SO AMAZING), and going to an exercise class designed especially for patients with Parkinson’s Disease called Rock Steady Boxing. Learning so many awesome things was exhausting, be oh so rewarding!

My roommates also had pretty amazing learning opportunities on their clinical rotations. One went to Italy and the other to Australia! The beautiful cornfields of Illinois were pretty great and all, but I’m not going to lie, I was a little jealous! Kellie said that Italy was a wonderful and unique experience that taught her a lot about the physical therapy field and the Italian culture. Brittney worked at an outpatient office in Newcastle, Australia called the Physio Joint (great name for a physical therapy office, am I right?). She says that learning from the “physios” gave her an entirely new perspective on how to conduct initial evaluations, and how to select the appropriate interventions. Physical therapy is a lot different in other countries, so it is great that Elon provides these opportunities for us. It helps us figure out why we do what we do in America.

I have been in South Bend, Indiana at Memorial Hospital on my inpatient rotation since Labor Day, and I have about two weeks left of this experience. I’ll update you more on my experience in South Bend next time! Each rotation has its own challenges and joys; I’m grateful that Elon has provided all of these learning opportunities for us. I have enjoyed learning and life outside of the Francis Center, but I sure do miss all 45 of my classmates and can’t wait to see all their smiling faces in a few weeks!

Talk to you again soon!

Behind the Scenes Physical Therapy

If you’re a super nerd like me, then all I have to do is mention the original Transformers cartoon and in your head you’re already signing “Transformers, more than meets the eye.” Now before we get into a discussion about whether you’d replace the manufacturer’s emblem on your car with either an Autobot or Decepticon logo, let’s recognize that we could apply that same catchy phrase to the profession of Physical Therapy (HUGE nerdy segue alert!). From the outside, Physical Therapy may just look like taking patients through exercises, mobilizing joints, training people on three vs. four point gaits, and powering through your required documentation. Dig a little deeper though, and you’ll find that there really is more to being a PT than what meets the eye.

One of my biggest realizations on this final clinical rotation has been that we do so much more than just deliver examination and interventions services. What people on the outside may not realize is that we are also educators and advocates. In addition, we have the professional responsibility to be movers and shakers in the world of health care. On top of carrying out the more typically recognized PT duties of performing an examination and delivering subsequent interventions, on this clinical, I’ve also coordinated wellness services for patients, advocated for surgical interventions for particular individuals, and provided ergonomic education and transfer training for hospital employees. At times, all of these different hats that I wear during a given day can feel a little overwhelming. However, when I leave at the end of the day, I’m always thankful that these “behind the scenes” roles that I play are ultimately geared towards bringing about even greater positive outcomes in the lives of others. Our profession is incredibly rich and full of new opportunities every single day, and I am beyond excited to graduate in two short months so that I can continue to expand on these roles and help more and more people, both in my own practice setting and throughout the health care landscape.

Oh and by the way, I’d totally be an Autobot.

Three Months Down, Three To Go

For the class of 2016, we’re now officially on the back half of our final clinical rotation and that means only a few more months until we get that coveted DPT! By this point, we’re all becoming more independent and starting to really feel like we’re ready to hit the real world on our own. I think I speak for us all when I say that our PT skills have grown immensely since that first day in Module I! But this clinical is about more than just sharpening the PT skills we’ve learned in school; it’s also about honing the intangibles that we can’t necessarily learn or practice in the classroom. For instance, personally I’ve felt over these first three months that I’m constantly learning how to be a better listener (if you think I’m wordy with blogging, just imagine how I am in a conversation =). One intangible that I definitely have down pat is making every patient smile or laugh AT LEAST once during a treatment session (let’s be honest, it’s quite possible that they’re laughing at me, not with me). While I’m certainly thankful for the chance to expand my hands-on PT skills, it’s been the growth of the intangibles that have really made this last clinical so much fun. Three more months, Class of 2016!!!

I’m Hooked

That split second when you pass beneath an overpass during a torrential down pour, although quick, the silence and stillness of the moment is magical; a perfect analogy of our most recent 2-week break.

As we 1st years enter into the much anticipated yet dreaded (due to tales from 2nd and 3rd years) ‘ortho’ module, the rainstorm of knowledge has once again begun. Now, I understand, from an outside perspective, the endless amount of work is seemingly daunting and quite undesirable, but in reality, it is addictive. Within the past week we’ve endured lecture and lab ad nauseam leaving us drained. At the end of each day, with mushy brains, we meander home only to continue our studying or work on our research projects. However, no matter how burnt out you feel lying your head down each night, you wake up with an uncanny motivation to get back and learn more.

Adrenaline in the classroom rarely occurs outside of being called on while daydreaming of the rock star life or hurriedly fumbling to silence a sounding text message. Yet, I’ve felt adrenaline coursing through my system as all the information from the past 8 months begins to mesh together and we start to ‘see’ like a PT. The idea of us becoming ‘movement specialists’ is constantly drilled into our minds and the title is beginning to make sense as our ability to analyze gait and breakdown the movements of the human body is developed.

As the wise words of Lao Tzu state, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” With the first week of ortho under our belt, we have officially taken that first step!

Being a PT Means Being a Student Forever

During this last clinical, I’ve found myself caught in between two mindsets. On the one hand, I find myself very excited to retire the role of student and graduate on to becoming a full-fledged PT. On the other hand, I find myself constantly being made aware of all the things I have yet to learn, and it’s during those times that I realize that in actuality, I’ll be a student forever. A classroom student?? No not necessarily, but a professional student that loves to learn more about how he can treat his patients more effectively? Absolutely! I’m thankful for a profession where I get to learn new things every day all for the sake of making people better!

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.