For our 6 month internship, we have additional requirements to fulfill. One of them is regarding “consultation” – meaning that we are to use our PT background and knowledge to serve and teach an un/underinsured or otherwise disadvantaged population. I had the extreme privilege of volunteering at a camp through the iCan Shine program. There was a local iCan Bike camp in my area this past week where I was able to serve and learn at the same time.
The program has five, 75 minute sessions during which children with special needs learn how to ride a bike. Each camper has 1-3 volunteer spotters to direct, refocus, and encourage them. I had the opportunity to integrate ergonomics, posture, and motor planning from a PT perspective.
The camp is incredible. The directors, volunteers and campers all put in so much hard work, which definitely paid off. For the first two days, children had difficulty getting onto their bikes without assistance and had a hard time balancing on their specialized safety bikes. Many parents were skeptical their children would make it onto a 2-wheeled bike by the end of the week.
Then, on the final days, I watched kids walk their own personal bike to the start line, kick their kickstand up without help, and ride independently for an hour or more. A parent told me (with tears in her eyes), “I can’t believe she’s riding alone! We’ve been trying to teach her for 3 years and have had no success!”
The kids said everything from, “I’m doing it!”, “I’m a speed racer!”, and “Just call me bike rider!” While it may have fulfilled a school requirement, it fulfilled so much more – I had the chance to meet some incredible kids and their families, as well volunteers who consistently give so much effort and time into a program they believe in. I learned many new techniques on motivation and teaching, and I practiced PT in a setting that was filled with joy and excitement. I got to enable kids with a means of exercise, fun, and transportation, while running myself ragged trying to keep up with them. It was a perfect week. Next week I will return to my clinical with a refreshed perspective to teach and learn.
Round two of our clinical experience is in full swing. For those of us in our second year of PT school at Elon, we are more than halfway through our second clinical rotation. The dreaded mid-term “CPI” (clinical performance instrument) has been completed, many of us have started or completed our in-service presentation, and some of us are beginning to think about our final CPI. In just three short weeks this experience will be over.
I am in an acute care setting at a small hospital in the southernmost county along the coast of N.C.. In this setting, I work with patients in the intensive care unit (ICU), the progressive care unit (PCU), and the medical surgery wing of the hospital. Looking back at my first week at here, I recall thinking that I would never be able to perform everything that my clinical instructor (CI) was able to perform on a daily basis. Now, five weeks into this unique learning experience, I am gaining confidence and applying what I am learning. With the help of my CI (who is an Elon University graduate) I am becoming more efficient, gaining confidence, and enjoying my role as an acute care physical therapist. I am blessed to be working under such a knowledgeable professional, and I am thankful for the patience she has shown me over the last few weeks, as this has been quite a challenging experience.
I am also learning that no job or career is perfect. When I was a manager at a fitness center, this proved to be true; throughout the 10 years I was a public school teacher this concept applied; now working in healthcare, this statement continues to hold its ground. I have worked with patients just hours after surgery, vomiting from anesthesia, as they walk down the hall of the hospital. I have had patients smile at me as I enter their hospital room, only to yell at me to “get out” when I tell them that I am with the physical therapy department (fortunately, they’ve later apologized to me and even requested me to be their PT for their next session).I have worked 12 days consecutively and also worked several 11 hour every days back-to-back while in this acute care setting.
While every career has its challenges, physical therapy included, I believe that God has placed me right where I am supposed to be, using the skills I’ve been blessed with, to reach out and help others. It’s certainly not easy, but then again, most things that are worth while are not. After all, it’s often when you have to work at something hardest, that you find that you appreciate it the most!