As I write to you today, I am now finished with my first clinical. As has been a common theme throughout all of my blog entries, I cannot believe how fast time is going. Just the other day, I feel I was writing saying how nervous I was to think about going on this first clinical…and now I am done.
It feels amazing to be able to say that I have accomplished this task; that I can say that I was able to work as a student physical therapist for two months in a clinic — learning from my clinical instructor, learning from other physical therapists, and investing in and learning from my patients. I have grown immensely over the past two months, as a student and as an individual. I have learned lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my education and into my future career.
One of them most important things I have learned from these past two months is the importance of having an open mind — an open mind to pursuing innovation, an open mind to pursuing challenge due to the reward that can be gained. The reward I am talking about is the progress and growth that I have seen in myself over these past two months. Before beginning this clinical, I was very nervous due to my lack of confidence in my knowledge and skill as a student physical therapist. I knew that I had done well in my school work during my first year in the Elon DPT program, but I was overwhelmed by the thought of trying to incorporate all that knowledge and skill into my practice in the clinic.
I was nervous because I did not know how to condense all that information into usable, concrete knowledge. But despite my nerves, I had to just jump in and begin my clinical and do the best I could…and that was all that was expected of me. I was not expected to be an independent practicing physical therapist…I was expected to be a student. While yes, I was expected to be a knowledgeable and skilled student, willing to take on new tasks and put into practice the skills I had acquired, I was not expected to provide the skill and clinical reasoning of an experienced physical therapist.
Just about two weeks ago, I was telling one of the therapists in the clinic that I was feeling frustrated because I was not feeling confident in my skills of effectively progressing my patients throughout their therapy or in observing consistent improvement in my patients. While, yes, I was able to progress patients, and, yes, I was observing some improvement, I was just not feeling as confident as I wanted to feel. The therapist’s immediate response was this, “You are not supposed to feel confident right now. You are a student. You are supposed to feel a little stressed and unsure.” While in my heart I knew this was true, I had just been struggling because I was trying to hold myself to an unrealistic level of knowledge and skill. I wanted to feel the confidence that experienced physical therapists feel. I wanted to have already ‘arrived’ as a professional physical therapist…and because these expectations were unrealistically high, I was feeling frustrated with myself.
But as I learned to embrace my role as a student physical therapist, a student on a clinical meant to provide me with initial experience and exposure to the professional of physical therapy, I placed less pressure on myself to be perfect and embraced times of uncertainty because of the opportunity for learning that they presented. While, no, I did not come to love the thought of feeling unfamiliar or uncertain with something, I came to appreciate it because it helped to reveal areas I need to further invest in throughout my education to help me grow in my pursuit of becoming a skilled and highly qualified physical therapist.
I am so thankful to have had these past two months in the clinic. I feel that this clinical came at the perfect time for me, a perfect place in my DPT education, because it helped to solidify some of my skills and helped to open my eyes to areas in which I still lack confidence, and helped me to realize that I really can work effectively as a physical therapist in a clinic — a physical therapist working with real patients and not just my classmates.
This clinical helped to spur my motivation to continue to pursue my growth in knowledge and skill so that I can more effectively, efficiently and confidently provide the highest quality services to my future patients. I absolutely love working with patients all day long, talking, joking around, educating, and counseling, and I look forward to being able to do this more skillfully and effectively in the near future.
As I prepare to begin a new module of coursework on campus at Elon, the neuro module, I am excited about all that I am about to experience and learn, and I am excited about further preparing myself to take on my next clinical starting in July.
Look forward to updating you on how this next module is going when I write again at the end of March ☺