Spring in North Carolina

Happy spring y’all. The Class of 2017 has the afternoon off today and everyone is enjoying it thoroughly. Some are going kayaking while others are going on a hike, but I thought I would update you on what our class has been up to before I go enjoy the North Carolina sun at the pool.

Before PT school, it seemed like everyone was competing with each other to attain the highest GPA, the most extracurricular activities, and to become buddy-buddy with their elders so they could get good recommendation letters. I’m not going to lie – I was part of that cohort. Now that I am in PT school, students still want to maintain a good GPA, get involved, and communicate with faculty, but with very different intentions from undergrad. We all want to do well because we all want to be successful and knowledgeable physical therapists.

It is crazy to think about all we have learned in a 3-month module. During Module 2, we dove right into Anatomy and Physiology. Although those classes took up most of our time, we took other classes to learn about bed mobility, assistive devices, cryotherapy, thermotherapy, and my personal favorite – soft tissue mobilization (a.k.a. massage). At the end of April, nine exams (including written exams and lab practicals) sounded very overwhelming. However, the exams were spaced out and once I started taking the exam or went into the room for the practical – I was shocked with how much I knew and how much had already become second nature.

Learning is much more fun when you have other PT students to collaborate with. One of my favorite memories at the Francis Center during Module 2 was when most of our class came in on a Sunday night before our PT Science I practical to practice how to use assistive devices. Everyone was walking around with canes, walkers, and rolling in wheelchairs and all laughing and helping each other out. It was very cool to see everyone helping a brother or sister out, while still having a great time learning.

But hold the phone.

PT school isn’t all about studying – the Class of 2017 definitely knows how to have fun outside of class. Raleigh, Durham, and Greensboro are close enough to enjoy country concerts, cool coffee shops and minor league baseball games – all of which our class have thoroughly enjoyed. Last weekend, I enjoyed my first Carolina Que Dog at a Durham Bulls baseball game. Who knew barbecue and slaw on top of a hot dog could be so good?! The night concluded perfectly with many of us PT friends watching fireworks together at the ballpark.

Since much of our day is spent sitting in the classroom, we also like to get outside and stay active. The bikers in our class have made a couple trips to the ice cream shop a bit south of here and I’ve already made two trips to hike at Hanging Rock State Park (which is absolutely beautiful). Some of the best memories I have so far are playing tennis with my classmates. We aren’t very good at tennis, but we are pretty good at laughing at ourselves playing tennis. Lastly, many of Elon’s PT students, their families, and the surrounding community came together in April to run a 5K to support the H.O.P.E. Clinic, a student-run pro-bono physical therapy clinic for those who are uninsured or under-insured in Alamance County and surrounding areas. Learn more.

Module 3 is now in full-force and we are all really starting to feel like physical therapists. We strut our stuff with confidence in our clinical attire while carrying our handy-dandy PT kits (which contain our fancy goniometers, tape measures, stethoscopes, and the like). We are already learning how to correctly diagnose a musculoskeletal problem and the art of manual muscle testing, and are having a blast doing it. We know a lot more about physical therapy than what we did 5 months ago, but know that there is much more to be learned. It is pretty difficult, but together we are up to the challenge. Just one step closer to becoming a PT!

Now off to the pool. See ya!

DPT at the Durham Bulls game Outside of the Francis Center DPT at Hanging Rock DPT after the 5K

A Truly Blessed Opportunity

Confession time….I have broken a promise. Well sort of. While I know I said that I would be back with more tips this month, I got to volunteer with the Special Olympics this past week, and I absolutely had to share the experience with you all. But never fear! Next month, I will be back with more tips (maybe I shouldn’t promise this time though =). So without further ado, here is a reflection paper, about the Special Olympics, that I wrote for class. Enjoy!

What a truly awesome opportunity it was to be able to volunteer and help with this past Friday’s Special Olympics. Coming in to the day, I had expectations that it would be a lot of fun and that it would be a unique opportunity; however, these expectations were blown wide open on the actual day. Not only was it a ton of fun to just play with the athletes, but it was also an incredible insight into the lives of these people. Given that I was manning the basketball station, I was thankful to be able to obverse three things during the day: relationships being made, the movement capabilities of this population, and the different forms of communication used throughout the day.

Probably the best part of the whole day was the fact that I felt like, in a few short hours, I was able to form a bond with a lot of the athletes. The basketball station was very popular, and therefore I got to see a number of “regulars.” As these athletes made multiple rounds through our station, I remembered certain things about each of them and was thus able to joke around with them and talk with them about how their day was going. One of my favorite athletes was a gentleman using a power chair. Each time he came around, he would make jokes about showing us how “Jordan does it” and would make sure to point out that he would be coming back soon. Again, while it was only a few short hours, it was a true blessing to be able to share these laughs and share in the joy that these athletes experienced from doing an activity that I take for granted.

Another thing about the day that blew me away was the fact that these athletes completely destroyed my pre-conceived notions about how well they’d be able to move. I lost count of the number of athletes that made their very first shot, and a number of the younger kids were throwing down dunks that would have put Blake Griffin to shame. While there were some athletes that had more profound movement difficulties, it was really awesome to see the compensatory movement strategies that these athletes used to overcome their challenges.

Lastly, communication, both verbal and non-verbal, was another thing that I observed throughout the day. Again, while many athletes had communication difficulties, a large majority of them had adopted compensatory non-verbal communication strategies. I honestly can’t remember more than maybe one or two athletes with whom I had true communication difficulties. In addition to my communication with the athletes, seeing the athletes communicate with one another was heartwarming indeed. Given that we only had one ball, I loved seeing how willing the athletes were to share with another, and they frequently offered encouragement to whoever was shooting. Guess that just goes to show how thankful I am that this day completely got rid of some of the CLEARLY incorrect pre-conceived notions that I held about these athletes.

I know this reflection was only supposed to be 2-3 paragraphs, but the fact that I could keep writing about this day for another couple pages is a testament to how much I enjoyed the day. These athletes, despite the challenges they face, display an absolutely infectious joy for living. I think we would all do well to be mindful of their example and to remember that no challenge is big enough to take the joy out of life.

Where We Are and Where We’re Going

We are now three months into the 3rd year of the DPT program. This 3rd month brought a transition into spring weather and a transition into courses such as pediatrics, business management and clinical decision making. The course in pediatrics includes in-class lecture and clinical experience with a pediatric patient. It is an adjustment to those, like me, who have minimal exposure to pediatric patients. Having an imagination can be challenging when you are put on the spot. Adult patients don’t necessarily desire to act like a flamingo during a single leg stance test nor hop like a bunny during a triple hop test; but the pediatric population demands this of you as a physical therapist. Through this course we will be a bit more confident when up against an intimidating 5-year-old.

To deviate from the traditional courses in patient care, the course in business management brings a different way of thinking. There are some of us that see a future in owning our own private practice, which makes this course very applicable. But for those without that interest, the course is expanding our minds to the factors of a successful company, to the up-to-date insurance facts, to the fundamentals of a well-built resume, and to the skills for a successful interview. When discussing future employment, the realization that graduation is rounding the corner continues to bring smiles.

Although much of our time is looking to the future of our 6-week selectives, 6-month clinical, graduation, and the board exam, we also gain time to reflect. The clinical decision making course offers an opportunity to share with classmates an experience with one specific patient that was treated during a previous clinical. It was a chance to share clinical decisions made, interventions performed, and how this experience may have influenced you as a physical therapist. It was inspiring to listen to classmate’s stories and an edifying experience to share one close to heart with friends.

As we step outside the Francis Center, we dwell in the beauty of budding trees, freshly cut grass and warm sunshine. To take advantage of this North Carolina spring weather we have escaped to nearby Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock for hiking, become competitive with our March Madness Brackets, focused time on planning a 5K run for the Elon HOPE pro-bono clinic, and kept traditions through an annual St. Patty’s Day get together with the entire DPT program. With only a few weeks left for all 53 of the DPT 2015 family to be together, time in the classroom is dwindling but that time will be well spent making memories and making the best of time.

Thinking PT School? Here Are Some Tips! – Part 1

While it’s not application season quite yet, if you’re reading this and thinking about applying to PT school, I’ve got some tips to prepare you for the process. In addition to advice for the application process, I’d also love to share some suggestions about how to prepare for PT school itself. As you can see from the title, I’ve got lots of advice brewing in the ole’ noggin, so I’ll be sharing a few tips each month for the next few months! So without further ado……

  1. Like I said, while the application process is still a few months away, it can’t hurt to start getting familiar with the schools in which you’re interested. While PTCAS has greatly simplified the process, I’d still recommend making some kind of chart, table, or other document that can help you keep track of the specific requirements for each school. There are some subtle differences between schools, and I guarantee that organizing all the information will make the whole process much easier!
  2. If you’re applying during your senior year of undergrad, seriously consider and take some time to think about whether you would benefit from taking time off before starting PT school. And I mean more than just the few months between. Important disclaimer – I took two years off before starting school so I’m a little biased. With that said, it was a HUGE benefit for me to take some time off, work in the field of PT, and learn how to live in the “real world.” Make no mistake, PT school, while sharing some similarities with undergrad, is strikingly similar to the working world. Therefore, having these two years to learn to navigate things like bills, insurance, etc. prevented me from having to stress about learning the ropes once I hit PT school. Now I want to make it clear that I’m not at all saying this approach is for everyone. Obviously, a lot of people do perfectly fine with going straight to grad school. However, I do want to emphasize that it can’t hurt to ponder the possibility!
  3. Volunteer, shadow, or work in a number of different PT settings. When I started down the path towards PT school, I didn’t even know that inpatient or acute care therapy even existed. Outpatient ortho was what PT was in my head. Thankfully, I ended up discovering and working in Inpatient Rehab and absolutely loved it. That experience really ignited my passion for PT, and I wouldn’t have found that passion had I not branched out into new territory. Aside from potentially discovering a new passion, working in varied settings also has the benefit of vastly improving the strength of your application!

 

That’s all for this month! More on the way next month, and thanks for reading!

That’s All Folks

As I sit here writing this, I have a newfound appreciation for how fast one can blitz through an eight-week span. Eight weeks ago, we started our first clinical experience….and now in the blink of an eye, we’re done. Whoa.

It all went by so fast that I’ve barely had time to reflect on the clinical itself. However, one thing I’ve taken away already is that I’ve still got a long way to go and a lot to learn before becoming a licensed PT. Don’t get me wrong though; I say this in an optimistic tone and with great excitement. While there is certainly a lot left to learn, I love the process of furthering my skills and gaining new knowledge that will help me be a better PT. Also, while the clinical was a blur, that’s not to say that I didn’t learn a ton of good things through this experience! I had the great pleasure of working with some fantastic patients and a great CI, and I loved finally being able to take a break from the classroom and put my skills to work.

Speaking of the classroom, following a one week break, we’ll be back to class for 16 weeks to learn all about the nervous system and all its many wonderful complexities. I certainly loved my ortho classroom and clinical experience, but this upcoming neuro module is what I’ve had my sights on for quite some time. I love the complex workings of the brain and its effects on our physical state, and I’m already looking forward to applying our upcoming neuro knowledge during our next set of clinicals! Neuro here we come!

2015: The Year of Graduation

2015 has arrived. The year of graduation. It is hard to believe we have made it to this point in our physical therapy education. It is hard to believe we will be entering the working world within the next year. The excitement within us is undeniable and uncontainable. This module filled with Wound Care, Electrotherapy, Prosthetics/Orthotics, Cardiopulmonary, and Exercise Physiology keeps us running and our heads spinning. Senioritis has set in or has been sneaking up on a lot of us. The professors have acknowledged our anticipation to become clinicians and have accommodated the lesson plans to be filled with clinical applications. There have been group projects, hands-on experiences with patients, and journal readings in this module which have been advantageous for our intellect and for keeping us engaged.

2015 has much to hold. With one last module and then on to a 6-week selective followed by a 6-month clinical, it doesn’t leave a lot of time left in the Francis Center or with each other. It is the year that the family of 53 moves on from Elon. But, with the time left, we are making the most of this final year. The HOPE pro bono clinic is serving many in the community and many of us are taking part in practicing our clinical skills with oversight. It is a great opportunity for reviewing and applying what we have learned in past modules and clinicals. Extracurriculars like Dancing above the Barre, ALS walk, MS bike ride, and of course intramurals, do not go unnoticed. Many are training for races stretched from 5K to Marathon, Half Marathon, and even a 24-hour run. If you are looking for motivation or encouragement to fulfill a New Years Resolution for becoming more active, look to the class of 2015.

The next week will wrap up our last week of finals. For many, if not all of us, this will be the last “finals week” of our lives. We cannot dismiss the fact that the Boards will be the final of all finals but considering that we have been in school for most of our lives, the thought of the last “finals week” is thrilling. It causes me to reflect on the past years and think how blessed I am to be in the Elon DPT program and surrounded by 52 other amazing soon to be physical therapists.

Nice to Meet You!

Hey Ya’ll!

My name is Libby and I’m new to the blog this year! I’m from Michigan so getting used to saying ya’ll has been a difficult task, but I have really enjoyed getting into the southern swing of things. The weather is pretty phenomenal too – I don’t miss the 15 inches of snow my parents got last weekend. Our class of 46 is made up of wonderful people from all over the US (including Alaska!), so I’m not the only one in transition.

Although our class is made up of people of many different ages, personalities, and backgrounds, we all are clicking very well. It always seems like there is something fun and exciting to do. One of our first assignments was to experience life in a wheelchair for 48 hours. It was very difficult, but to make the most of it we went bowling. One of our classmates even bowled a strike by swinging the ball under the wheelchair. It was pretty impressive.

Professors definitely eased us into the first module, which was very considerate. It gave all of us time to bond and hang out with each other. A group of us were able to go to dinner and the movie American Sniper. Another group was able to go hiking at a state park about an hour from Elon. We even have class challenges playing Trivia Crack (a smartphone trivia game). So many memories have already been created! We are going to be seeing a lot of each other the next three years, so we best get started now.

It is crazy to think that the first module has come and gone. Now it is time to get down to business. We already had our first anatomy test, which was actually really exciting (nerd alert). A group of us studied together whilst watching the Super Bowl and eating chicken wings and mozzarella sticks. We didn’t get much studying done, but again, we definitely made some memories.

I could go on for days talking about how exciting the first module was (about both the course content and the social activities) – but I must be off to anatomy lab! A cardiothoracic surgeon is visiting us to perform a median sternotomy on a cadaver and to teach us more about the cardiac system. Pretty exciting material!

Can’t wait to keep sharing my experiences with ya’ll.

-Libby