Checking In & Recapping NEXT


Hey Everyone,

So this last month has been crazy. They all have, but this month felt extra amped up. I feel like they are gradually increasing the intensity of school and I’m constantly expected to keep up. Good news is that they are giving us the skills to keep up with the new, more intense demands. So basically what I am saying is BRING ON THE CRAZY! I’m up for the challenge!


I am basically going to spend this whole post telling you about my APTA NEXT convention experience. So if you’re sitting there confused about what the APTA is or what the NEXT conference is then get ready because I’m going to tell you. The APTA stands for American Physical Therapy Association. It is our professional organization. They advocate on our behalf and help to educate the general public about the benefits of physical therapy. That is a really simplified explanation of who the APTA is, but just know that it is important and you should want to be a part of it. You can visit this website to read more about who the APTA is: . The NEXT Conference is the APTA’s annual national conference.  There are a bunch of different conferences that are available to attend.  You have the main three:  CSM, NEXT, and NSC.  They are all distinct in what they offer and they are all worth going to at least once. There are more national events that deal with national governance and advocacy which are also worthwhile to attend if you want a deeper view into what the APTA is doing on your behalf.

I know that some of you may have just read that and been bored or that you have heard from other PTs that you have met that joining the APTA is a waste of money and to not do it. I hope that by the end of this you will understand that it is completely worth it and that you should form your own opinions by doing some exploring of what the APTA has to offer for you.  I know that for me I just signed up for it because I was told to, but I didn’t understand what it was or what I could benefit from it. I still am learning about it and it is exciting. Let me give you the lowdown on my NEXT experience and segment of the reasons why attending a conference can help you decide if being a part of the APTA is worth it for you.

I volunteered at the conference to help reduce the cost of registration. This was a huge help and still allowed me plenty of time to attend informational sessions. There were many jobs that you could get assigned to, but I was assigned to be a directional. So I was partnered with another student volunteer and helped to assist people in finding the room that their session was in. Another student from the program was assigned to be a Session Chair. His job entailed him to introduce the speaker and to moderate the session.  This afforded him the opportunity to meet some of the forward thinking experts in the field. Volunteering was amazing because it allowed us the opportunity to meet other students from all over and get to know them pretty well by being paired with them.

When I wasn’t volunteering I was attending sessions, listening to debates and lectures, and networking. I met so many amazing people at this event and now feel so much more connected with others in this profession. I got to meet the president of the APTA and she was such an endearing and warm person for being so high up in the profession. I now know people that are going to be in Birmingham, AL while I’m doing my first clinical rotation that have offered to help me find a place to live and to meet up while I’m there. This is such a nice thing to have. Living in a new place can be very nerve wracking if you don’t know anyone, but now I have these connections and that brings the stress down.  I was also able to learn more about some of the different sections that are available.  I’m interested in sports and women’s health and so I was able to attend their booths and find out some very valuable information. I found out that it is possible to attend courses in women’s health while still in school and that there are scholarships available starting in the second year. I don’t think I would have found out this information had it not been for this invaluable experience. I attended meetings held by the Student Assembly which really helped to inspire me to want to come back and get more involved. I highly recommend that you follow them on Twitter or Instagram to see what all that they do. I could write on and on about all that I experienced because it was that impactful of an experience. However, I am going to just leave you all with this: Go to a conference! Volunteer yourself to be a part of something. Even if you don’t know exactly how to do the job, you will grow into it. Don’t let fear stop you from getting the most out of your educational experience as you can.

Hope this inspired at least one person,







When do I get to see my first patient?

**We are pleased to share a guest post from Ms. Nita Skillman, Director of the Client and Standardized Patient Program for Elon’s School of Health Sciences.**


Elon University Physical Therapy students have their first patient encounter just a few months into their education.  The Client and Standardized Patient Program (CSPP) provides on average eight encounters the first year, thirty the 2nd year and fifty the 3rd year.  These encounters ensure students are given the opportunity to test their examination skills with patients, grow critical thinking skills, and develop individualized treatments plans even before their first clinical rotation.

The very first encounter is focused on enhancing communication skills and taking a patient history.  After this encounter, the patient and faculty offer each student personal feedback on their communication style and effectiveness.  This provides a richer experience to the student and adds a sense of realism that practicing with their peer might not.  This encounter is also recorded to allow the student an opportunity to watch their video and self-reflect.

Just recently our first-year students held a Baby Lab in their DPT 610 Human Motor Development class.  This lab consisted of eight typically developing children ranging in age from birth to one year.  During the lab, students performed assessments looking at each baby’s motor development.  All while observing primitive reflexes, infant mobility, and functional play.  Each baby was also paired with a pediatric therapist from the community allowing the student to have access to an expect in that area.  For the same course in July, the students will participate in a Big Kid Lab that will include ages ranging from one to seven.  During that lab, they will assess gross motor skills such as higher-level locomotion, ball skills, and higher-level balance.

In the second year, PT students worked in groups of four to treat patients with a neurological disorder in their DPT 703 Clinical Seminar IV class.  During this class, the students worked with their patient over five visits.  The first visit included testing and goal planning followed by four treatment days.  This exposure to patient care not only gave our students the chance to see how neurological disorders impact a patient’s everyday life, but also gave our students an opportunity to bring to life classroom lectures.

Our third-year students gained valuable patient exposure during their DPT 804 Selectives class.  Selectives offer our students the opportunity to choose which area they wish to gain more practice and instructional time in prior to their final six-month clinical rotation.  Currently the offerings include pediatric, muscle skeletal, neurological, independent study, research and global studies.  The muscle skeletal group of students logged approximately 45 patient treatment hours within their six-week instruction.  During this class, faculty gave one-on-one assistance to students with their patients.  The students worked on things such as treatments to help patients return to running, community ambulation and evaluations of muscle injuries such as strains and pains.  Students enjoy not only the one-on-one instructional time, but also valued the additional hands-on experiences with the patients.

The CSPP is often asked where we get our patients from, and what type of patient will a student see.  Our patients are local members of the community that want to partner with Elon to ensure our students get as much patient exposure as possible.  Some of our patients participate in classroom discussions, some receive individualized treatments, and others work with our students to simply give them hands-on knowledge to how their illness has affected their body.  Our students are exposed to patients with a wide range of diagnoses including but not limited to stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, orthopedic complications, amputations, and multiple sclerosis.  The CSPP not only encompasses patients that have very specific diagnoses but also includes trained Standardized Patients (SPs).  SPs portray a medical diagnosis and allow students to work through treatment options without risking harm to vulnerable populations.  SPs are also well versed in giving patient centered feedback to students.  The feedback conversation is designed to allow students to hear directly from a patient’s perspective about the encounter and work alongside of the SP to improve upon the experience.

The Client and Standardized Patient Program is focused on providing every student an opportunity to work with patients, reflect on their encounters, receive feedback, and gain valuable firsthand experience.  It is our goal that all students will be able to look back on their classroom patient encounters and take those lessons into their clinical practice.

Neuro, neuro and more neuro

Hi everyone! I’m so sorry it has taken me so long to write another blog. Time just slips away from you in PT school, but for those of you unfamiliar with the Elon DPT Curriculum, today I’m going to talk about the best module — neuro!

In your second year of the DPT program, your first didactic semester revolves around treating patients who experience or develop neurological injuries and disease processes. Half of the time is spent learning the anatomy and physiology while the other half details just how physical therapy can make a difference in the rehabilitation experience. Neuro has a reputation for being a dense module with challenging material, but I can honestly say it has been my favorite module so far in PT school! Maybe I’m a little biased, since I think I’d like to work in this setting, but here are some of the aspects I’ve enjoyed this module.

We have outstanding professors that are incredibly passionate about the material they teach. Dr. Folger has a remarkable gift for taking complex information and transforming it into a language that is easily understood by my classmates and I. Dr. Andrews has a wealth of experience that gives us the tools to conquer challenging situations using our intuition and learned skills. Along the way we have heard from numerous guest lecturers who have shared their expertise and allowed us to learn a new set of skills unique to the neuro population. All of these incredible instructors make it easier to sit through the long days and enjoy the lessons that are being presented.

The professors have also done an amazing job of integrating opportunities to work with clients currently living with neurological conditions. We have had multiple visitors come and speak to tell us of their experiences in their day to day life. We have had the opportunity to evaluate patients with spinal cord injuries and practice hands-on skills. We have the opportunity to work under the supervision of a physical therapist and have weekly sessions with a client to practice selecting and implementing interventions to help improve their quality of life. Each of these experiences leaves me so grateful to have the chance to be in this profession. I am often humbled by the wise words of our clients and the determination that they exemplify. One of my favorite moments from a client to class, was a client who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. They said “When I think about my life, I truly think MS has given me more than it has taken away. MS has stripped away the facade and has shown me who I really am, and more importantly, who appreciates who I really am.”

In just 4 weeks, we will leave for our 2nd and 3rd clinical experience. This means my classmates will be apart for 4 months before returning to the classroom in November. It’s been a beautiful experience seeing how all of my classmates grow into the confident and capable physical therapists that I know they will be on graduation day. Our next clinical experiences will focus on the acute care and neurological settings, so we will be able to take the skills acquired this module and really apply the knowledge we have gained.

As for me, I’ll be staying in Burlington for July and August to work at a skilled nursing facility for the next clinical. But at the end of August, I’ll be headed to AUSTRALIA! Thanks to Elon’s incredible global studies initiative, I get to spend two months learning from the manual therapy experts in Newcastle, New South Wales. As you can tell, a lot of exciting things are coming, and I can’t wait to share it all with you!

Until next time,


So this month has been a busy time…

Hey Everyone!

So this month has been a busy time. We started module 3 which is basically like our pre-orthopedics module. Module 4 is our major orthopedic module. It’s exciting to start learning this new information. I have talked to some classmates and a lot of us have felt that this is what we imagined PT school would be like. A lot of lab time working with goniometers and doing MMT. I feel like every module I get more and more energized about my decision to pursue a doctorate of physical therapy. So here is the lowdown on the classes and fun stuff that been happening.


Everyone has to complete a research project. My research team has been working on our project pretty diligently since we were assigned. Not everyone has the same commitments for their research, but ours is working with athletes so we are trying to coincide with their schedules. There are times when everyday after class and during lunch that my group has met to work on our research. There are also times where I haven’t worked on research because I have to prioritize an exam or quiz and everything has evened itself out.

Duke has been collaborating with us on collecting data and we were taught their testing protocol. This took some practice and learning because some of the tests in the protocol we haven’t had the chance to go over yet in classes. It required some extra practice after and before school, but the skills that I learned made it worth it. The protocol can also come in handy for our own research, so that is a definite bonus.

A little side note, but I participated in another Elon student’s research. It was interesting to be a patient in a research project because I have never participated before. It allowed me to see the level of professionalism that is required. I highly recommend participating in someone else’s research before doing your own so that you can see how it all goes. Also getting patients for a research project is difficult so help people out and participate.


We had a challenge in one of our anatomy classes to paint the face muscles. We were separated into teams and worked to create the most anatomical representation of all the facial muscles and then describe their functions. It was a ton of fun! We got judged by faculty members, which is always nice to see faculty that we don’t see very often all come together. My team was the winner!


Fun Stuff:

APTA NEXT Conference

I got accepted to volunteer at the APTA Next conference in Orlando, Florida. I was also awarded a scholarship to help make going be more financially viable. I am going to be going down with another classmate. I also know of other students from Elon that are planning on attending. I am really excited to see what this conference has to offer. I am also pumped to meet other PT’s and PT students from around the nation.


This is a program that works with the special olympics. They sent out information to our class and three of us have decided to volunteer with them. We will be providing screening as part of APTA’s Special Olympics Healthy Athletes initiative. I  have been craving more opportunities to volunteer, but find it difficult with my current schedule. I think this type of event is such a relevant and perfect opportunity to volunteer.


An Ode to Roommates

This week my apartment was extra echoey. It was one of the first times since starting graduate school that I was living on my own. I’ve been very blessed to have wonderful roommates since starting PT school at Elon, and it has made a world of difference. My current roommate (at least as until last week), Shagun, and I met on the first official day of our program—when we happened to sit in the same row. Side note: choose your seats wisely because chances are you’ll be sitting there for the next three years. Anyways, we started studying together and during the unproductive moments (which there were many) we realized how similar we were and became friends and eventually roommates.

IMG_0162Over the last two and a half years, we shared so many experiences together. We discovered our mutually low tolerance to caffeine. We slowly increased our tolerance (and dependence) on caffeine. We watched every Marvel movie, in order. We memorized every muscle in the body. We adventured to the ocean. We cooked (and burned) a variety of dinners. We learned the details of how our muscular/skeletal/cardiovascular/neural system works. We I killed the monster bugs in the apartment. We binged A LOT (arguably too much) of Netflix. We practiced transfers and mobilizations and so many other physical therapy skills.

Having a roommate is great for many obvious reasons like splitting costs and cooking meals together. The latter, being especially important to me because I once accidentally dumped an entire pot of pasta down the drain. But by far, the best part about having a roommate in PT school (especially one that is in the same program as you) is that youIMG_0765.JPG have someone that can 100% relate to you without you having to explain all the details. They understand the stress and pressure of school, because they are going through it too. They help remind you that it is all worth it, because they are passionate about joining the same field that you are. And, perhaps most importantly, they help remind you to take a study break and enjoy life outside of school.

You can definitely make it through PT school without having a roommate, but having one makes the hard days more tolerable and turns the good days into great ones. Even if they are a Bears fan.

April 2018… update from first year class

Hey Everyone!

I am excited to tell you that Finals week has passed! I feel as though I started Module 2 as a pigeon and came out the other side as a fierce hawk. When I first started PT school I was fixated on getting good grades. I wanted all A’s! It was what I was striving for. Now I realize that the grade I get on the final isn’t what is important. What’s important is the knowledge I am gaining. I am supposed to be building my clinical decision making ability. I am supposed to be understanding what muscles work together to create which actions. What nerve gets injured cause what injury to present. These things are important. Not the letter that pops up at the end of the exam.

I’m saying this because I felt a sense of calm going into this past weeks finals. Substantially calmer than how I went into midterms. I was so paranoid that I was going to mess up or that I wasn’t smart enough. This time I felt assured that I was equipped with the proper knowledge to succeed on the exams. I wanted to know what I wasn’t sure of so that I could work on those things. I wanted to see what I got stumbled up or confused about. I wanted to be able to argue a questions correct answer because I was using my newfound clinical judgement skills. This to me shows real growth! I feel as though I have already showed real growth since starting Elon’s DPT program. It’s an incredibly rewarding feeling and I have so much more to learn. It’s impressive what the human brain can do because I have been shoving information into it for so long that you would think it would just pack its bags and leave. But no, it continues doing whatever it is brains do with knowledge. I’ll probably be learning exactly what brains do with information in my second year.

Now that we have discussed the school stuff lets talk about all the other things that make grad school awesome! The month of April was one crazy ride! There was so much to do. Here is just a few things that happed:

Maker Hub:

Elon has this awesome place on campus called the Maker Hub. It’s basically a woodworking, 3D printing, painting, laser engraving studio. They teach you how to use the various machines and tools and you are set to go. I took two classes with them this month and it was seriously awesome. Sometimes doing something that isn’t PT related is really nice. I also ran into one of the professors that I previously had there, which was a neat surprise.

Guest Speakers:

The DPT program is hiring a new staff member and they have been doing interviews lately. They do a really good job of including the students in this whole process which makes you feel like your opinion is truly valued. The interviewing professor gives a presentation about a topic of their choosing to anyone in the program. It’s very interesting to see what they come in to discuss because the topics are generally groundbreaking research that is taking place. Not only did I enjoy being a part of the hiring process by giving feedback on the presentation, but I also liked that I learned something completely new.

National Advocacy Dinner:

This was an event that in essence talked about advocating for the PT profession and the legislative process on the state and federal level. Me and a few others from the cohort went to this together. It was a bit of a drive as it was hosted at UNC, but it was so worth it. In my personal opinion, it is these events that make the full grad school experience. I got a chance to socialize with other students in different programs nearby. I got to know my fellow peers better and learn how they felt about the issues facing this career field. There was a panel of professionals in the area that spoke. they gave different sides to the varying issues that the PT profession is trying to get legislation on. It was interesting to hear the different areas where improvements could be made. I don’t think about these things on a daily basis, but they matter because this is my chosen career and I want it to be the best that it can be. Okay I’ll calm down now, but seriously when these events come up you should go to them!


WE GOT OUR RESEARCH TOPICS!!! I am so excited to start working on the research! I never got the chance to work on research in undergrad so I am looking forward to this experience immensely. What could be cooler than looking into topics that are plaguing the populations that you want to work with? The answer is nothing could be cooler. I have so much to learn and work on, but that’s the whole point of why I’m here. Bring it on.

Hope you all are having an awesome time reading this blog!

Combined Sections Meeting (CSM)

CSM 1Last month, 18 of my classmates and I went to New Orleans for the Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) to present our research. During our first year here at Elon we worked on a research project as part of our curriculum. Many of us chose to work with a professor or group of professors on a project that they were starting or had already started and some students designed their own project. I worked with two professors and two of my classmates on a project that investigated the use of the Lower Quarter Y Balance Test in women ages 50-79. Through the course of our curriculum we developed a research plan, collected data, analyzed data and reported our findings. Many of us chose to continue with the research and develop abstracts to submit to national conferences or write manuscripts with our professors. CSM is the national conference that the APTA puts on each year to promote continue education, present new and updated research and further develop the profession of physical therapy.

So what was it like, you ask?

Well, most of us arrived to New Orleans a day before the conference officially started and did some exporting before the conference began. We filled the day with beignets, people watching, delicious food, streetcar rides, and enjoying the culture of New Orleans.  That night I went to the “opening ceremonies” of CSM, where we got to listen to the president of the APTA and celebrate the physical therapists that earned their specialty certifications this year. The celebration continued with delicious appetizers and desserts (pro tip: there is a LOT of free and delicious food at national conferences…you just have to know where to look).

CSM2The next three days consisted of the actual conference. At the conference there are MANY lectures given by physical therapists and researchers across the country. These lectures were in all of the different areas of physical therapy practice: Neurologic PT, Orthopaedics, Pediatrics, Sports PT etc. Because I want to work with a Neuro population, I primarily attended these sessions which allowed me to learn about new research that was being done and think about how I could apply this information on my final clinical and ultimately when I am working as a PT.

Each day of the conference there was a section where all the posters that were accepted were presented. This is where I (and my classmates) presented our research. In the simplest version, I made an abstract and a poster that depicted our data, the results and why it would be important for us as physical therapists. I got to talk with many clinicians and students about what we did and how it could be useful to them in their practice. It was a great experience to participate in and see 2 and 1/2 years worth of work come to fruition.

Overall, it was great to be in place with over 17,000 physical therapists who are excited and contributing to our (future) profession. It was an energizing experience as I near my final clinical rotation.